Spain – The End of Austerity?/España – ¿Al Final de la Austeridad?

MAJOR NEW REEL NEWS FILM: Completely ignored by the mainstream media over here, the social movements in Spain have just sensationally taken control of the councils of the biggest cities in Spain. The “citizen’s platforms” have agreed everything collectively in assemblies throughout the cities, from who would stand as councillors to what their policies would be – and are now implementing an anti-austerity programme which prioritises an end to all evictions, bringing privatised services back into public ownership, providing free water and electricity to those who can’t afford to pay, guaranteed access to healthcare for all, and an urgent plan to tackle youth unemployment. People are talking about a second 1936…is this is the beginning of the end for the politics of austerity in Europe?
This half hour film also explains the origins and connections between the 15M movement; social movements such as the PAH; Podemos; and the citizens platforms. Make yourself a cuppa, sit back and get inspired and excited…

This is the major industrial dispute in Spain at the moment. Coca-Cola workers in Spain have been fighting to save their jobs for 17 months, when Coca Cola attempted to shut down all four factories there. Milltant rank and file action alongside a boycott of Coca-Cola has forced the company to reopen the factories, but only as warehouses…now the workers are calling for the boycott to be extended beyond Spain as they continue the fight to save their jobs. Support their struggle – boycott all Coca-Cola products.

Issue 40, Apr 2014

Reel News 40

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1: Massacre in Vitoria (Reel News) 36:43 ***PLAY***

1976, the Basque Country: a dying fascist state orders police to attack one of the greatest rank and file movements ever seen. 5 workers are murdered and over 100 seriously injured; 38 years on, the people of Vitoria are still fighting for justice.

 

2: SOAS cleaners strike (Reel News) 14:07

Cleaners at SOAS show how a picket line should be done in the fight to be brought back in-house.

 

3: Blacklisting Companies Meeting (Stewart Hume, electrician and UNITE activist) 3:50

EXCLUSIVE secret footage exposes the building firm bosses who blacklist.

 

4: Blacklisting: Citizens Arrest (Reel News) 5:31

The Blacklist Support Group serve an arrest warrant on Cullum McAlpine.

 

5: Leon Rosselson: Sixty Quid a Week (Reel News) 4:30

New song from Leon about an encounter with a homeless person.

 

6: NUT strike (Reel News) 10:28

First national strike by teachers since 2011 as the campaign to stop Gove destroying education hots up.

 

7: David Rovics – Landlord (Reel News) 6:10

Great song and a slice of US working class history.

 

8: Chicago University Strike (Labor Beat) 8:36

2 days strike by lecturers at the University of Illinois-Chicago – for virtually the same reasons that lecturers are striking in Britain.

 

9: London Met – FE Strike (Reel News) 5:47

Rally at London Met to push for further action in the dispute over pay.

 

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“Massacre in Vitoria” released online

Please share this video as widely as possible – not only to support the people of Vitoria’s fight for justice, but so that more people can learn the lessons from rank and file organisation which ultimately led to the legalisation of trade unions in Spain.

1976, the Basque Country: under threat from a growing all-out strike amongst the factories of Vitoria, a dying fascist state orders the police to open fire on a peaceful assembly in a church during a general strike of the whole city, murdering 5 workers and seriously wounding over 100. 38 years on, no-one has been brought to justice for the cowardly attack on one of the greatest rank and file movements ever seen.

Massacre in Vitoria – Trailer

On March 3 1976, police attacked a peaceful assembly of strikers during a general strike, murdering 5 workers and seriously injuring over 100 in a desperate attempt to stop one of the greatest rank and file movements ever seen.

Every year on March 3 in Vitoria there is a march to remember the dead and continue the fight for justice. If you’re reading this today, the march is not until 7pm – messages of international solidarity would really help.

Please send solidarity messages to: info@3demarzo.org, and watch out for the full Reel News film later this week – the whole incredible story, told by striking workers themselves.

justicia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will be the latest in a series of films being produced by Reel News to help build international solidarity with the “Querella Argentina”: where Franco’s fascist regime is being put on trial in Argentina for the crimes it committed, and to get justice and reparations for the victims.

Although there has been a lot of information published about the atrocities committed by Franco’s fascist regime during and immediately after the Spanish civil war, little has been said about the intensification of repression by Franco’s regime in the 60s and 70s against the social movements that grew, demanding liberty and basic human rights and ultimately defeating fascism.

The atrocities, continued during the period of transition to “democracy” from 1975-1981. Many of the culprits are still alive and holding positions in the police, the army, the civil service and the judiciary – and for this reason we’re concentrating on this period. Not only do these people need bringing to justice, but they need to be purged from the Spanish state if another world is to be truly possible.

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.

 

Yolanda Petition

Yolanda

Click on the link below to add your name to the thousands demanding that Emilio Hellín, the convicted fascist murderer of 19 year old student activist Yolanda González Martín, is thrown out of the Spanish state security forces – along with all those directly or politically responsible.

(Note: this is the English version of the petition – to sign the Spanish version, click here.)

SIGN THE PETITION

 

Issue 35, March 2013

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Support Reel News!

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  1. Into the Fire – The Forgotten Victims of Austerity in Greece (Reel News, 38:50) Refugees and Migrants in Greece.
  2. Somonte – Land and Freedom (Reel News, 13:50) Trade Unionists occupy a 400 hectar farm in Andalucia to grow food and create jobs.
  3. Palace of Varieties: Vincent Figgins and Vicky (Reel News, 2:42)
  4. Save Lewisham Hospital (Reel News, 14:42) Huge Protest in South London as privatisation of NHS accelerates.
  5. Palace of Varieties: Riverdance (Reel News, 2:16)
  6. 3 Cosas – Sickpay, Holiday, Pensions Now! (Reel News, 23:50) Outsourced workers at the University of London increase the pressure for basic rights.
  7. Palace of Varieties: Don Tempi (Reel News, 2:21)

 

The Crimes of Franco’s Fascist Regime 5: The Apparatus of Repression

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration,all types of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain. Reel News is in Spain for two weeks to work with La Comuna, an organisation of ex-political prisoners fighting for justice and reparations.

On Tuesday we met Ramon Saéz, who is a class of person who you might have some difficulty coming across in Britain – a radical judge. He met with us to explain the legal framework for the oppressive apparatus of fascism in Spain.

Judge Ramón Sáez
Judge Ramón Sáez

Basically the core instrument used for oppression against people fighting for basic rights was the military tribunal – not just during and immediately after the Civil War from 1936 – 1939, but right up to the end of the dictatorship, as can be seen by the use of military tribunals to pass the last five death penalties in Spain in September 1975. (See http://reelnews.co.uk/the-crimes-of-francos-fascist-regime-4-sentenced-to-death/). Military tribunals were a way of pushing decisions through quickly with few, if any, rights for defendants.

In the 40s there were the tribunals of masonry and communism, used against anyone with different ideas to the state (masonry in Spain at the time, although a secret society, was associated with liberal and republican ideas). These were used to jail, exile and execute – and as a result to scare people into submission and accept the regime.

They were also used to expropriate money and property retrospectively. For example, Blas Infante, the celebrated Andalucian leader, was executed in 1936. In 1941 he was found guilty retrospectively of political crimes, and the house of his widow and children was taken by the state.

“Political crimes” became a catch-all term for anything the state didn’t like, or went against the twisted morality of the catholic church in Spain. So “political crimes” covered all forms of association in public places such as demonstrations and meetings; any form of organisation outside the state or church such as trade unions or political parties; freedom of expression such as criticism of the state or even statements of peace; sex outside marriage including adultery and homosexuality; the list went on and on. Ramón described it as “an absolute and ferocious control of the people to keep them in a permanent state of fear.”

The position of women under fascism was horrendous; quite simply they had no rights at all. They had trouble finding work, and if you got married you had to give up your job immediately. Only men were allowed to sign commercial contracts of any type (mortgages for example) so as a woman you had no right to own any property – your father or husband signed any contracts that needed signing.

As with other fascist states, Franco’s regime could only work by having a significant popular base. There was a whole network of formal and informal informants, collaborators and secret agencies of information to control the population. The taxi driver who just gave you a lift could be part of it, as could the caretaker who looked after your block of flats. The popular support came from a number of factors –  a lot of it was down to currying favour with the regime out of fear that the widespread oppression of the civil war might return (around 75,000 people were executed between 1936 and 1939), but there was also the fact that you were more likely to get a job or increase your income – plus the fact that a significant part of the population had been won over to the ideas of fascism. However, Ramón pointed out that a lot of the time people were controlled because they’d internalised their fear of the regime – because they assumed they were being watched anyway, there was no need to waste resources on constant surveillance.

If communites got too uppity. “states of exception” were declared, where the few rights that did exist would be suspended completely. People could be arrested and detained indefinitely, and police could enter people’s houses at will and impose curfews. The first instance of this was during the Asturian miners’ strike of the mid- fifties.

There was a circular logic to the repressive apparatus, which continued even after Franco died, and the law was changed in 1976 and 1977. The culture was still the same – so the police could get away with atrocities such as the massacre in Vitoria in 1976, when police opened fire on a workers’ assembly in a church during a huge strike. 5 workers were killed and over a hundred seriously wounded – but as the police had done the shooting, obviously the workers must have plotting crimes against the state. Simiilarly, if you were arrested and then complained when you were tortured, you were likely to receive an increase sentence for telling outrageous lies about the police.

La Comuna demo yesterday: "Against Impunity: Solidarity with the victims of Francoism"
La Comuna demo yesterday:
“Against Impunity: Solidarity with the victims of Francoism”

Ramón supports La Comuna’s fight for justice and reparations for the crimes of the Franco regime, and the lifting of the law of impunity for such crimes passed in 1977. He rejects the idea of “reconciliation” that is put forward as justificaition for the law – as he says, you can’t have reconciliation without first officially recognising the suffering caused. He also pointed out another key point which shows why La Comuna’s struggle is so important as a prerequisite for a better world today. As he said, “The colour of the uniform may have changed, but the culture lives on, because the dictatorship has never been discredited.” You only have to consider how little the culture of the Met police in London has changed to see how true that is – and the Met police’s culture has been discredited not once, but at least twice, after Stephen Lawrence’s murder and after the 1981 riots.

La Comuna have now found a judge in Argentina who is prepared to put the fascist regime on trial under international law for crimes against humanity, in an ironic reversal of the trial in Spain against the generals of the military dictatorship in Argentina. Although this is largely symbolic, the trial of the generals did increase the pressure for justice and reparations that the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo had been bravely calling for, a struggle they ultimately won. This could be the first step in a similar process, but they’ll need international support and solidarity. This could take the form of messages, demonstrations, donations to the campaign – they need money in particular in the short term so that ex-political prisoners can travel to Buenos Aires to give their testimony.

In the meantime, La Comuna will hold a demonstration every Thursday, just as the Madres did, until they get the justice that the Spanish people so richly deserve.

http://www.lacomunapresxsdelfranquismo.org/

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.

 

The crimes of Franco’s fascist regime 4: Sentenced to Death

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration,all types of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain. Reel News is in Spain for two weeks to work with La Comuna, an organisation of ex-political prisoners fighting for justice and reparations.

On Monday, we met Manuel Blanco Chivite and Pablo Mayoral, activists in the 70s in the Antifascist and Patriotic Revolutionary Front (FRAP).

Manuel Blanco Chivite
Manuel Blanco Chivite

Manuel explained that the early 70s was a period of economic and political crisis for Franco’s regime. The oil crisis of 1973 had created huge problems for the Spanish economy; Franco’s health was deteriorating rapidly; and the social movements in Spain in the colleges, workplaces and neighbourhoods were growing and becoming increasingly confident. Young people were leading the movement; as they hadn’t lived through the horrific violence and fear of the post civil war era when the fascist regime was consolidating its power, they were able to do things that their parents couldn’t. As worsening living conditions added to the complete lack of rights under fascism, more and more struggles developed throughout Spanish society.

The regime responded predictably; with a fresh wave of violence. Pablo told us that although the demonstrations called in this period were completely peaceful, police would attack them viciously with live ammunition. As deaths on demonstrations became commonplace, something had to be done.

People started fighting back, defending themselves by any means necessary. FRAP was one of many groups on the radical left that started to focus and give expression to this impulse, and grew quickly – particularly in the colleges and neighbourhoods. Pablo said the growth in workplaces wasn’t so large, but was still significant.

Pablo Mayoral
Pablo Mayoral

As surveillance of groups like FRAP increased, Pablo was forced to leave his job in 1975 and then spent 4 months living clandestinely. He described what a difficult time it was – constantly on the move, often not even having somewhere to sleep for the night. In Madrid’s metro their would be two armed police in every station all day every day, stopping virtually every young person, searching their bags and checking their documents.

“States of exception” would be declared, a form of martial law where the few rights there were under fascism would be suspended in entire areas, for periods that could last for months. The oppression was particularly fierce in the Basque Country. In Blbao in July 1975 for example, there were so many arrests that hundreds of people were detained in the main square because the police stations and jails were completely full up.

The same month, a confrontation in Madrid with armed police resulted in the death of a police officer. Pablo and Manuel were arrested on suspicion of being responsible and were taken, as normal, to the detention centre (Dirección General de Seguridad). But events from here were anything but normal.

Usually when people arrived at the DGS, they would be signed in and processed – name, date and time of arrest and so on. Pablo and Manuel were taken straight to the interrogation cells, so there was no record of them being there. As Manuel pointed out, they could have killed them there and then and no-one would have known. They were then kept there for 10 or 11 days, even though the legal limit was 72 hours.

DGS Interrogaton cells
DGS Interrogaton cells

The interrogation cells were in the basement of the building, below ground level with no natural light. They were subjected to constant beatings and torture with virtually no let up. Pablo said that you just had to mentally draw a curtain over your face to try and distance yourself from the horror. Manuel explained how young police officers were being taught how to torture by the older ones, using them as the subjects. On the last day, they forced them to sign a confession. Pablo said they didn’t even have any idea what it said.

In prison they were held completely incommunicado for 40 days – they didn’t even get access to a lawyer for 25 days. Pablo explained that he was kept in a cell no bigger than 4m x 3m, with nothing – no soap, no chance of a shower, no clothes to change into.

They were taken from the prison at the end of August and greeted with the news that they were going to be tried in a military tribunal with three other comrades arrested for the same offence. It was a sick travesty of justice. Not a single piece of evidence was produced for any of the 5; no witnesses, no ballistic evidence, not even the gun that had supposedly been used to kill the police officer. They were all found guilty in barely 3 hours. The next morning came the sentences. Manuel was sentenced to death along with two others. Pablo was given 30 years.

There were 6 other prisoners condemned to death in other areas of Spain at the same time – 3 more from FRAP, 3 from ETA – so 11 of them were to face the firing squad just 15 days later. Hours before the sentences were carried out, Manuel was told that his sentence was to be commuted, along with 5 others. Manuel still doesn’t know why, but as he said, the important thing was that 5 executions were still carried out, without a shred of evidence. Police queued up to volunteer to kill the 5 – José Humberto Baena, Ramón Garcia Sanz and José Luis Sánchez Bravo from FRAP, Juan Paredes (Txiki) and Angél Otaegi from ETA. Franco was to die just 2 months later, and Manuel explained that the executions were a desperate attempt by a weakening regime to stop increasingly powerful social movements bringing about the end of the fascist dictatorship.

There was international revulsion at the killings. Huge demonstrations took place everywhere, including London. In France there were strikes and riots. In Portugal and Italy, the Spanish embassies were burnt down. Virtually every Spanish ambassador was thrown out and sent back to Madrid.

Manuel and Pablo were released from prison in 1977, when the law of amnesty was passed following the first democratic elections in Spain for over 40 years. The battle to get amnesty for all political prisoners had been hard fought, with police continuing to kill people on demonstrations over the issue. Unfortunately when the law was finally passed, it also granted complete impunity for all the crimes of the Franco regime from 1931 onwards.

Today, Manuel and Pablo are active in La Comuna, the organisation of ex-political prisoners fighting for justice and reparations for the crimes of the Franco regime, and the overturning of a law of amnesty that, as even the United Nations has declared, violates international human rights law. Pablo pointed out that international solidarity over the executions in 1975 had a profound effect on the regime, and how international solidarity now will again be crucial in winning the battle for justice.

Tomorrow: more about La Comuna’s battle for justice and how we in other countries can help.

http://www.lacomunapresxsdelfranquismo.org/

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.

 

The crimes of Franco’s fascist regime 3: Enrique Ruano and Atocha

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration, all forms of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain.

Lola Gonzalez Ruiz
Lola Gonzalez Ruiz

 

Last week in Madrid we met Lola Gonzalez Ruiz and Margot Ruano, activists in Spain’s student movement in the 60s. They explained that while the workers movement in Spain at the time was organising clandestinely for better wages and conditions, the student movement – also having to organise clandestinely under a fascist dictatorship – was growing too and becoming increasingly political. During 1967 and 1968 many demonstrations and actions were organised,for example over the United States involvement in the Vietnam war, and against the state-imposed student union. This resulted in the formation of  clandestine student unions  – in  Madrid it was named the SDEUM (Democratic Students Union of the University of Madrid).

Margot Ruano
Margot Ruano

 

As Margot pointed out, this was a non-violent movement, using only words as weapons. But Franco’s dictatorship viewed these developments with increasing alarm.

Enrique Ruano, Margot’s brother and Lola’s partner at the time, was also a student activist. On January 16 1969, he and Lola were arrested in a cafe by La Brigada Politico-Social, Franco’s notorious secret police. They were held for 3 days in the interrogation centre, the DGS (Dirección General de Seguridad ).

On January 20 at 1pm, 3 police officers took Enrique in handcuffs to a flat where they thought there might be incriminating evidence of some sort. In this flat they tortured him. One of the police officers shot him, then all three carried him into the corridor and threw him seven floors onto the patio below. To this day no-one knows whether he was killed by the shot or the fall. Enrique was 21 years old.

The police announced that Enrique had committed suicide, producing a false psychiatrist’s report and even more disgustingly, tampering with Enrique’s body to hide the gunshot wound. The media just reported what the police announced, and Enrique’s neighbours were far too scared to say anything. Lola and Margot knew the police were lying, but would not find out the facts for 20 years, when the case was reopened in 1989.

Enrique Ruano (picture taken 5 days before he was assassinated)
Enrique Ruano (picture taken 5 days before he was assassinated)

Huge demonstrations in protest by both students and workers followed – and were met with further repression as the dictatorship raised the level of tension and fear. There were mass arrests and deportations, and for the first time police entered university campuses to violently break up demonstrations. But despite people’s fear, the movements continued to grow. When Franco died in 1975, the dictatorship was in ruins – and as the saying goes, “The dictator died in his bed, but the dictatorship died on the streets.”

However, the transitional period that followed was to be accompanied by more horrific violence, as armed fascist gangs appeared – protected by the police, and doing the dirty work of a government where the apparatus of the dictatorship still continued intact.

"Fascists out" - graffiti on University of Madrid wall
“Fascists out” – graffiti on University of Madrid wall

In 1977, Lola was now a lawyer working with the still-clandestine union CCOO.  (The right to strike and the right to organise in unions would not become law until a couple of months later). On January 24, she was attending a meeting with 8 other lawyers specialising in labour and community law near Atocha railway station. One of the other lawyers was her husband, Javier Sauquillo.

Suddenly fascists armed with machine guns burst into the room and opened fire. Lola said the shooting went on for 2 or 3 minutes. 5 lawyers were killed – including Lola’s husband, Javier. Lola and the other three somehow survived, despite being seriously wounded.

Lola would face two years of operations. She had been shot through the neck and face and had to be fed through a drip. And although she found the strength to continue her career as a lawyer afterwards and later work as a civil servant in Madrid, losing a second loved one in such horrific circumstances (plus a number of good friends) is something that, as she says, “You never recover from.”

Monument to the Lawyers of Atocha
Monument to the Lawyers of Atocha

The assassins did receive prison sentences, but none of them served anywhere near the whole terms. One of them was even granted bail, at which point he disappeared before being able to be sentenced. As for Enrique’s assassins, all three ended up being decorated for outstanding service. When the truth came out in 1996 it was too late – the Amnesty Law passed in 1977 guaranteed blanket immunity from prosecution for those suspected of crimes against humanity during the Franco era.

Not surprisingly, Lola and Margot completely disagreed with this, and still do. Add to this the shocking revelation last week (http://reelnews.co.uk/the-crimes-of-francos-fascist-regime-1-yolanda-gonzales-and-aluche/) that a convicted fascist murderer has a senior position in the police, and it becomes clear why the battle for justice during the Franco era is still so important.

I came away from the interview feeling quite shaken at what Lola and Margot have had to face in their lives, and a bit ashamed that I knew so little of these events before – but it was a real honour to meet them. If the current generation of activists can find even a tenth of the strength and bravery shown by these women, then another world really is possible.student posters

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.

 

The crimes of Franco’s fascist regime 2: Women in Prison

Update: This article is now available in Danish.

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions, and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration,all types of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain. Reel News is in Spain for two weeks to work with La Comuna, an organisation of ex-political prisoners fighting for justice and reparations.

On Sunday we met Pilar Arias, Maria del Valle and Isabel Pérez Alegre, three activists who spent time in Delicias women’s prison in the 70s. All three were active in left wing political parties and in clandestine trade unions as the movements against the dictatorship grew.

Isabel Pérez Alegre
Isabel Pérez Alegre

They told us how organising clandestinely affected their lives. Many of their fellow activists were being arrested, and Maria spoke of a constant state of fear and tension, always looking over your shoulder to see who was watching you; of meeting in secret and having to be careful what you said to family or friends; of having to survive on hardly any money, and of living with instability when you did have a job, because of the constant threat of the sack due to being a member of a clandestine trade union.

Dirección General de Seguridad, Plaza del Sol
Dirección General de Seguridad, Plaza del Sol

When activists were arrested, they would be taken first to the interrogation centre in Plaza del Sol, the DGS (Dirección General de Seguridad).  Isabel’s memories of this place are so bad that even after 40 years she didn’t want to talk about it. Maria explained that the interrogation seemed to go on forever. She spoke of being beaten and being deprived of sleep. The room had no natural light so you had no idea whether it was day or night, or how many hours or days had passed. When you were finally taken to prison, Isabel said it felt like a palace in comparison; although political prisoners were put in smaller cells than other prisoners, at least she finally had a bed and could take a shower.

Maria del Valle

 

 

Pilar agreed that the conditions weren’t too bad in Delicias – there was even a small cinema where they could watch films – but the first time she was arrested, at the age of just 18, she was sent to the notorious Alcara de Henares prison, an old converted convent. She said it was terrifying; the rooms were freezing, very little natural light, the beds were dirty and uncomfortable, and wardens would pull back the shutters on the metal doors to the cells all the time to intimidate you and to see what you were doing.

Delicias Prison
Delicias Prison

In prison, they organised in communes or “comunas” – hence the name of the group that is fighting for justice and reparations for the crimes of the Franco regime, La Comuna. Pilar explained that it was a mirror of how they organised outside, so the main organising tool was the assembly, where all decisions would be taken collectively. Everything they had was shared amongst everyone; money, food, tobacco etc.

They set up political discussion groups, using the time inside to educate themselves, and they would act collectively to improve prison conditions, not just for themselves but for the other prisoners – many of whom were inside simply for being people that the regime didn’t like. There were many prostitutes inside who hadn’t had the money to pay an on-the-spot fine; women who had been caught smoking a spliff; many women whose only “crime” was to be gay.

Pilar Arias
Pilar Arias

The ultimate weapon of the “comunas” was the mass hunger strike, accompanied by solidarity actions outside prison. It could be quite difficult to get the message out because you were only allowed visitors from your family. Pilar explained how she would shout loudly into the microphone to her mum “We’re on hunger strike! Tell everyone outside why!” so that all the visitors could hear. Of course they would cut off the microphone and punish her, but the message would already be out.

The biggest  hunger strike, involving all the political prisoners in the country, took place in September 1975, when the dictatorship condemned 11 activists to death. 6 had their sentences commuted but 5 were shot by firing squad, triggering huge protests inside and outside Spain. Yesterday we interviewed two of the activists who had their sentences commuted, so more on this later this week.

All three women spoke of the violence that accompanied the transition to democracy after Franco’s death in November 1975, when armed fascist gangs were allowed to operate with complete impunity and hundreds were murdered. The still intact apparatus of the dictatorship was trying to keep the fascist state going, but the people continued to fight back. The failed military coup in 1981 would signal the end for the fascist state in Spain.

15M demo in Madrid, 25.09.12
15M demo in Madrid, 25.09.12

Obviously the democracy that followed didn’t go anywhere near as far as people had hoped – but as we spoke about the situation now, the women pointed out that the drive for austerity meant that the rights that they did win are gradually being taken away one by one, and that the peaceful popular resistance represented by the 15M movement  (the “indignados”) is being met by increasingly violent oppression yet again.

The lessons of the past show how our rulers turn to fascism in times of recession when they are unable to control a growing movement against them – and that’s why the struggle to bring those responsible for the crimes of Franco’s regime to justice, particularly those still in the state apparatus, is so important in the struggle against austerity today.

http://www.lacomunapresxsdelfranquismo.org/

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.