Review: The Friends of Durruti Group: 1937-1939

The Friends of Durruti Group: 1937-1939
Agustin Guillamon
Translation by Paul Sharkey
AK Press, Edinburgh/San Francisco 1996
ISBN 1-873176-54-6

This is the kind of book which could easily make you want to line it up in the eccentric curios section of your anarchist bookshelf, containing a host of minutely-focused tomes on tiny movements and insignificant groupuscules. The introduction to the English language edition of this historical account of the Friends of Durruti organisation which emerged in opposition to what it understood as CNT-FAI reformism in the 1936-9 revolution, only partially saves it from such a fate.

Unless you're well read on the Spanish revolution, the introduction will make little sense. This is a pity since the volume does contain a large variety of previously unpublished material from and on the FoD. What follows the introduction is a detailed account by A. Guillamon of the emergence of the organisation and the fate it suffered at the hands of Stalinism and those in the CNT intent on pursuing a collaborationist line.

The tone of the volume, however, oscillates between promoting the FoD as the only real revolutionary organisation, in opposition to all and sundry, to an ineffectual group that could do nothing but hang on to the coat tails of the CNT. While the study denies any meaningful linkages with other leftist groups or Trotskyists and the like, it berates the FoD for not having taken its revolutionary to heart and 'taken power' along with the revolutionaries in CNT and other leftist groups such as the POUM. After a few pages, the reader realises this is the message of the book. The old chestnut of the failure of anarchism and anarchosyndicalism is paraded once more in the pages of this short book and is sealed by the concluding remark that "The Spanish revolution was the tomb of anarchism as a revolutionary theory of the proletariat" (p. 108). If Guillamon had analysed the international situation, the political divisions in the CNT, the realities of Stalinism, the fact that half of the anti-fascist part of Spain was not under CNT control, or even the way in which this power was 'to be taken', then the argument might have been more convincing. But as it stands, it is no advance on all the rest of the Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist analyses of the Spanish revolution, and does not even reach the interest or the sophistication of many.


Source: Direct Action, Magazine of the Solidarity Federation (British IWA-AIT section)

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