The 1936-37 Spanish Revolution: anarchists massacred at Tarragona

Submitted by Matthew on 8 January, 2010 - 2:50

On Wednesday 5 May at 8am, a large force of police suddenly appeared at the Central Telephone Exchange of Tarragona, plentifully armed with weapons and grenades for taking it by assault. They occupied it without encountering any resistance whatever from the workers. Once masters of the building, they took control of the urban and inter–urban communications, cutting the lines of the working-class and anarchist organisations.

Four hours later a conference took place at the general military headquarters between Comrade Casanovas, representing the telephone workers, and the lieutenant–colonel, chief of the coastal military forces, when a detailed account of the unexpected developments was given. As a result of the conference it was agreed that the police forces should be withdrawn from the first floor, where the apparatus was, and should keep watch in the vestibule.

But 15 minutes later the Chief of the Police announced that the Commissar for Public Order in Tarragona refused to carry out the agreement following very strict orders received from Barcelona.

While these conferences and telephone conversations were proceeding, our comrades discovered activity on a large scale in the local headquarters of the Republican Izquireda, numerous individuals entering without arms and leaving with a gun. The same thing happened, but with less cynicism in the headquarters of the Socialist Party, and in the People’s Club.

The following day, in the morning, a violent and open attack on our organisation began. Supported by an intense musketry fire and bomb throwing, an assault was launched against the quarters of the Libertarian Youth. This attack was repulsed. In face of the gravity of such aggression, we appointed a commission to get in touch with the Commissioner of the Catalonian Government with a view to demanding a general conference of all the anti–fascist forces in order to avoid a repetition of such lamentable episodes. He agreed to this request and called together the representatives of all the political and industrial organisations.

In order to acquaint themselves with what was happening at Tarragona, our comrades Castello and Rueda had set out for that town. On arriving, they heard a lively fusillade and realised that it had to do with a fresh assault on the headquarters of the Libertarian Youth led by part of the State forces collaborating with elements from different organisations. The tremendous violence of this attack made it possible for the assailants this time to achieve their aim.

At the conference, the delegate of the Central Government, the Air Force Captain Barbeta, disclosed that he had explicit instructions from the government to use every kind of force — including the air force — to destroy the syndicalist an d anarchist organisation if it did not surrender its arms.

Our representatives declared that they were ready to surrender their arms — but on condition that the disarmament was general.

To this very natural request, Captain Barbeta replied that he could not proceed to disarm the other organisations because they had placed themselves unconditionally on the side of the government — to which our comrades replied that the Confederation was so little against the Government that it was part of it.

The discussion continued and finally our comrades consented to abandon their right — indisputable though it was — in order to avoid any violence which might be prejudicial to the workers. They laid down their arms at the air force camp on the following conditions:

1. that all who had been arrested should be set free;

2. that the police forces actually present along with all the forces belonging to political organisations should be removed from Tarragona and replaced by air force men;

3. that the life and liberty of all comrades should be respected and their headquarters immune from attack.

These points having been accepted by all the organisations represented, Captain Barbeta promised that he would permit nobody on any pretext to violate them and that if the undertakings were not observed he would act with the greatest energy, regardless of what individuals or organisations were the offenders.

The rest of the day was quiet, but the next day at dawn, as early as 3 o’clock in the morning, the assault guards and the police took possession, by violence, of the offices of the Defence Council — under orders from above — as they said.

Then, as if this was an agreed signal, they set to work to assassinate the militants of the CNT and the FAI, breaking the word of honour given the evening before by the authorities.

The environs of the town are now strewn with the corpses of our comrades. Here are the names of some of those seen: Mario Beruti, Baltasar Vallejo (Trade Union of Maritime Workers), Mato Freixas (Transport Workers’ Union), Jose Gallisa (Black–Coat Workers’ Union), Julian Martinez, Ramon Alvarez (Republican National Guard), Jose Castellvi (Trade Union of Office Workers), Francisco Molina and four other corpses which up till now have not been identified.

Furthermore the well-known militant, Rua, a young Uruguayan anarchist who had been in Spain to fight on the side of the workers since the beginning of the military plot of July, was also assassinated.

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