Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Molly has just finished reading Abel Paz's 'Durruti in the Spanish Revolution' and hopes to review it soon here. But for now is a brief biography of the author, Abel Paz.

Born Diego Camacho in Almeria in August of 1921 'Abel Paz' was not yet 15 when the events of the Spanish Revolution erupted on July 19th, 1936. He had spent his childhood in the libertarian milieu, schooled in the rationalist Natura Schhol, going on excursions to the countryside with the sol y Vida group. At this early age he was already a worker, a member of the CNT's manyufacturing and Textile Workers' Union, and a member of the Libertarian Youth of El Clot. Thus, despite his youth he was a full participant in the events of the next few years.

He was an early participant in forming a group with other youths, Los Quijotes del Ideal (the Quixotes of the Ideal) who fought against the increasing bureaucratization of the CNT as the Communist led counterrevolution gained ground in the Republican Zone. This was the beginning of a lifelong devotion to the ideas of libertarian socialism. He became a baker's apprentice, participated in the 'May Days' of 1937 and lived in a peasant collective in Larida Province from October 1937 until the spring of 1938. This was at the time when Republican troops, under the Communist General Lister, were engaged in destroying the collectives of Aragon rather than fighting the fascists.

On January 25, 1939 Diego Comacho fled Barcelona along with thousands of others as Franco's troops enetered the city. The next few years were spent in France, underground during the period of German occupation. Here he acquired new names, Jacques Kamatacho, Juan Gonzales, Ricardo Santany Escamez. For an anarchist militant names were easier things to shed than principles, unlike the Communist "anti-fascists" who sang a different tune on the signing of the Hitler Stalin pact.

By 1942 Comacho was back in Spain where his time underground was brief. He was arrested and sentenced to 6 years prison time. In 1947 he was paroled. His time at liberty was once again brief- 114 days during which he participated in the underground activities of the FIJL (Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth), under the alias of Luis Garcia Escamez. He was arrested in Barcelona in August and sentenced to another five years in prison.

Thanks to a little corruption on the part of prison authorities (about the only thing that makes life livable in fascist and communist regimes) he was able to have a note "lost" from his file, and he was once more released on parole. A similar thing may have led to his first parole. He immediately took up activity with the underground CNT and in 1953 represented the CNT of the Interior at the AIT Congress in Toulouse. Here he learned that the Spanish government had applied for his extradition on the charge of transporting explosives. This ruled out returning to Spain at the end of the Congress, though he did return clandestinely several times over the next two decades on missions for the CNT.

While in Toulouse he stayed at the CNT's office and began to write for CNT newspapers. Over the next few years the name of 'Abel Paz' was born as the young militant became a self-taught historian and prolific author. Paz has published numerous historical studies and also a multi-volume autobiography. Aside from 'Durruti in the Spanish Revolution' by AK Press few of these works are available in English. An abbreviated version of this book was published by Black Rose Books in 1985 under the title of 'Durruti: The People Armed'. The complete edition by AK Press is far superior. The French publishing house Hazan (no web address as far as I can determine- see for mailing address) has published one of his books under the title of 'The Spanish Civil War' in 1997. Most of Paz's works are only available in French or Spanish. There is a misconception floating about the internet and reinforced by the brief Wikipedia article on Paz that the Kate Sharpley Library has published a pamphlet by him under the title of 'The Iron Column'. In actual fact this a pamphlet written by Elias Manzanera, a volunteer from Italy in the anarchist militias. As far as Molly can determine the confusion began from a mistake made in an A-infos posting. At least one of Paz's works is available here in North America in French. The Montreal-based Librairie Insoumise carries his 'Barcelone 1936'. Paz has also served as a consultant for Ken Loach's film on the Spanish Revolution 'Land and Liberty'.


Anonymous said...

The confusion on 'The Iron Column':
1, Pamphlet by Manzanera, full title "The Iron Column : Testament of a Revolutionary" (published)
2, Book by Paz, full title "The Story of the Iron Column : Militant anarchism in the Spanish Civil War" (not yet published, being worked on by ksl).

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Manzanera was a native of Valencia (it may be Umberto Marzocchi, author of 'Remembering Spain : Italian Anarchist volunteers in the Spanish Civil War', also published by the KSL you're thinking of...)
But good on you for the post. Hope you enjoy the Durruti book.

mollymew said...

Thanks for the further info. Looks like Molly added her own little bit to the confusion.
Yep, I enjoyed Paz's book. The man is a very engaging author. Hopefully I'll be able to do the review on it soon.