Regarding the participation of spanish anarchists in the French resistance against Nazis …
Can we compare the involvement of some Ukrainian anarchists in the Ukrainian Army with that of some Spanish anarchists in the French Resistance? (A reply to “Did the anarchists who liberated Paris support the oligarchs?”)
(Published 10 November 2022 by CNT-AIT France)
Regarding the participation of Spanish anarchists in the French resistance against Nazis …
As a justification to the involvement of some “anarchists” in the Ukrainian Army, we have read on anarchist social networks the argument that “after all, the Spanish anarchists joined the Allied army and they liberated Paris”. This has been summarized by the question: “Did the anarchists who liberated Paris support the oligarchs?”
First of all, it was not the Spanish anarchists who liberated Paris but the US and Allied army, of which certain Spanish anarchists were part of the advanced brigade (1) which entered Paris first. It is not the anarchists alone who liberated Paris. And without the tanks and the military equipment of the American army they could not have done anything. Just a historical reminder.
Then it should be known that the participation of certain Spanish anarchists in the Free French Army (Forces Françaises Libres, which was a part of the US and Allied army) was not a decision of the anarchist organization, but were individual decisions. These are individuals who decided to join the Free French Army. And they didn’t do it in the name of anarchism, nor as anarchists. They did it for their survival (which is quite respectable, and they had a lot of courage). But they never claimed to have fought for anarchism. Besides, they never took pictures of themselves wearing uniforms with red and black flags or anything else… They had no political program, they didn’t bring about a change in society in their wake. This was not their goal. Their combat unit was not an anarchist unit, but a hierarchical unit, with its order and respect for military authority, even if their French officer (Captain Dronne) left them a certain freedom of organization because he had understood that if he wanted to benefit from the best of their military value and experience, he had to leave them a form of autonomy.
With regard to the participation of the Spanish anarchists in the French internal resistance, there too we have to escape the stereotypes. First of all, it was the subject of internal debates among the anarchists taking refuge in France. Some anarchists refused to join the resistance in France, believing that this fight was not theirs, because the French Republic had not supported them militarily against Franco. And among the Spanish anarchists who joined the French resistance, they organized autonomous resistance groups distinct from the French resistance groups. The Spanish anarchist resistance groups, in particular that of the L’Aigle dam building site, had their own organizations, which did not take orders from the French Resistance (even if they coordinated with the non-Communist resistance. Relations with the Communists were very tense and there were even armed clashes, the Communists sometimes attacking the anarchist maquis). Spanish anarchist resistance groups decided their own mode of action and their military objectives, and made clear to the French resistance that they would not die for France and didn’t want to be used as fodder canon to liberate France. They were fighting against Nazis, not to liberate France … If you read French, we invite you to read this article: http://cnt-ait.info/2020/07/19/barrage-de-laigle/.
Finally, the French anarchists – and in particular the anarchosyndicalists – also participated in the Resistance; they were joined by a famous Russian anarchist Voline (who had taken part in Makhno’s Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine in 1918-1921). Voline was involved in a resistance group organized around former members of the French section of the AIT (banned by the democratic French Republic government in 1939), together with Italian, Bulgarian, Senegalese members … Their group liaised with the Spanish anarchist resistance groups mentioned before, and they held a congress in the farm of a former French IWA section member in summer 1942. This group edited and printed many documents, brochures, posters which make it possible to know their political position. They stood very clearly both against the Nazis and against the Allies. They published in particular a very clear book “The Culprits”. Voline participated in writing of book, in which the oligarchs guilty of causing the war are indeed denounced:
“They are legion, the big culprits in our modern societies! We have, first of all, the Profiteers: pirates of industry or finance, who, without pity, without conscience, without humanity, exploit to death or have their fellow men massacred among themselves to increase their profits. Then come their lackeys: the Politicians. Impossible to list all the perjurers, chameleons, renegades, upstarts, etc. There’s too many.”
They edited a poster “Mort aux vaches” (death to the brutes) in which they denounce of course the Nazis, the French collaborators of Vichy, but also the communists, the English … and the Gaullist resistance, calling for them all to be killed …. (See the poster here: http://cnt-ait.info/2020/07/12/mort-aux-vaches-death-to-the-brutes-1943/)
There are more texts about this group in English here: http://cnt-ait.info/2019/08/08/1939-1945-anarchist-activity/
The English version of the texts revised by Voline are here: http://cnt-ait.info/2020/07/12/to-all-intellectual-and-manual-workers-1943/
We hope that these few items will allow you to better understand the action of the anarchists in France during the Second World War.
Peace in the cottages, war in the palaces,
Death to tyrants,
And good luck to you.
(1) In fact, 25 soldiers, according to the autobiography of their Squad leader, Captain Drone.