Preface to the writings of Camillo Berneri

by Frank Mitz

Sources of information and quotations - Umanita Novo 16th July 1966; U Fedeli, Adunata dei Refrattari, December 1961; Pensieri e Battaglie 1938.

"To guarantee revolution, it is not enough for the mob to be armed or for them to have expropriated the bourgeoisie: it is necessary for them to destroy the capitalist system entirely and to organise their own system. They must be able to combat the ideas put forward by Stalinist and reformist leaders with the same vigour with which they attack capitalist individuals and the leaders of the bourgeois parties. As of May 1937, any revolutionary endeavour that does not remain faithful to this experience condemns itself purely and simply to not existing. Attacking the state, unhesitatingly confronting the Stalino-reformist counter-revolution: such are the distinctive characteristics of the coming revolution."

These extracts from the secret republication in Spanish of Beneri's writings in 1973 by the Iberian Liberation Movement (whose symbolic figure is Pulg Antich who was garrotted on 2nd March 1974) explain the reason for the publication of these writings.

We have added some pages of Berneri's from this period which best reveal his thoughts on Marxism and the militias.

It is necessary to know that Berneri and numerous other Italian anarchists and anti fascists made their way to Spain to fight weapon in hand.

Having arrived on 29th July 1936, on 7th August Berneri put forward his plan for an Italian column composed of anarchists, independent socialists (Giustizia e Liberta), communists, monarchists and republicans. On 17th August the column was formed (text in L 'Autogestion dans l'Espagne revolutionnaire p.278). The next day, the column set out for Aragon with 130 men. It eventually contained about 450. On the 28th they received their baptism of fire at Monte Pelado, which they held despite their numerical inferiority.

Beneri was sometimes at the Front, sometimes in Barcelona to organise the column and propaganda. And as of October 1936, with the appearance of Guerra di Classe, he settled in Barcelona, without completely ending his contact with the Front in person.

So Beneri was at one and the same time fighting with the rifle and with the pen. The reformist course of the Revolution was bringing ever stronger pressure to bear: 'Spending from 20 to 22 hours on end immersed in political and military problems inevitably results in a sort of mental nausea. . ' (16th January, 1937); 'Issue Number 8 of Guerra di Classe will appear when it can. The Committee (CNT-FAI) has dealt with in the same way as with L'Espagne Anti-fasciste[*] and I don't want to be accused.' (February 1937).

Berneri's articles reflect the feelings of the anarchists - Spaniards and foreigners - who volunteered to sacrifice their lives for anti hierarchical social change and for the benefit of all workers and not for the patriotic and republican demagogy of the privileged.

*This was the magazine of Prudhommeaux and his comrades in Barcelona. To avoid CNT censorship, they had to return to Beziers in France.
Originally published in 'The Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review' Number 4, 1978

Writings by Camillo Berneri

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