A Counterrevolutionary Provocation
The Police Forces Assault the CNT Local Expropriated from the Escolapios on 19 July. Juventud Obrera (Barcelona), October 1937
Previous translations posted here have highlighted aspects of the solidarity shown in civil war Barcelona between members of the CNT and the Marxist POUM, and the present article is a further example. Published in the newspaper of the JCI, the POUM’s youth wing, it decries an assault by armed police on a city-centre local, which had been occupied by the CNT from the beginning of the civil war. This assault has been referred to in work by Agustín Guillamón and François Godicheau, but, as far as I know, this article, which ends by calling for a united front between the CNT and the POUM, has not been referred to elsewhere. A future post will reflect on the plausibility of this call in the context of the Spanish revolution and counterrevolution. All footnotes are the translator’s.
Another counterrevolutionary provocation has occurred, and a highly significant one at that. Last Monday, the police forces led by the bizarre Colonel Burillo – Burillo or Burrillo? – took over the Escolapios building by force, which the revolutionary workers of the CNT and the Libertarian Youth (JJLL) conquered heroically during the memorable days of July 1936.
The assault was carried out with impressive pomp and ceremony. Señor Burrillo brought with him Assault Guards equipped with the best military weaponry, supported by artillery and tanks.
The whole thing gave the impression that their target was a fortress defended by dangerous fascists prepared to fight to the death. But in fact, their intention was merely to rob a building from a group of anarchist workers who had occupied it in July 1936, losing some of their best comrades in the process.
As might have been expected, the workers refused entry to Burillo’s forces. The military response was immediate, and the workers responded to this counterrevolutionary provocation.
They defended themselves. They defended their local. They used their weapons – the weapons which they had also used to defeat the fascists in July. The resistance lasted throughout the night and through Monday morning. At that point the workers surrendered and were taken to prison. The police carried out a register of the property and gave an account of the operation to the press, in the typically hilarious style that we’ve all come to expect of Burillo.
Now it’s worth asking the question: what did the government hope to achieve with this provocation? Doubtless to incite the indignation of the revolutionary proletariat of Barcelona and perhaps spark another May days. But the Barcelona workers kept their cool and did not engage in the kind of spontaneous battle that their counterrevolutionary enemies surely wanted.
Nevertheless, the revolutionary proletariat could and should have demonstrated their solidarity with the defenders of the Escolapios building and protested against the provocation. That nothing of the kind occurred is the responsibility of the leadership of the CNT and the FAI, which is more concerned with securing an impossible unity with the counterrevolutionary provocateurs and winning ministerial portfolios than defending the revolutionary conquests of 19 July.
The assault on the Escolapios building and the assault on the neighbourhood centres of the JJLL are signs that the counterrevolution is gearing up to its renew its offensive with even more energy than before.
We salute those whose resistance in the Escolapios building has signalled the way for the revolutionary proletariat to follow. The attacks must be resisted, and we must counterattack. But that alone is not enough. We must confront the counterrevolution by forging the Workers’ Revolutionary Front and the Revolutionary Youth Front – the only effective instruments of struggle – as the revolution demands of us.
 Ricardo Burillo, who at this time was a member of the Communist Party, was a military officer who was named Chief of Police in Barcelona following the May days of 1937. He signed the warrant for Andreu Nin’s arrest and played a macabre role in the attempted framing of the POUM leadership as Francoist agents. Later, having resigned his party membership, he took part in the anti-Communist ‘Casado coup’ that preceded the end of the war. Burro is the Spanish word for donkey and ‘illo’ is a diminutive, so adding an r to Burillo translates as ‘little donkey’ - presumably this is the author’s intention here.
 The Escolapios are a religious order. The building referred to was one of many owned by religious orders taken over during the street-fighting that marked the beginning of the civil war in Spain’s major cities. At the time of the episode recounted here, which took place on 20 September 1937, ‘the Escolapios building’ was used by CNT members as the headquarters of the anarchist cultural group Faros, the Food Supply Workers Union, and the city centre defence committee.
 Burillo had threatened to subject the building to aerial bombardment. In the end, the workers were persuaded to surrender by a delegation of the CNT’s Political Advisory Commission (CAP), a committee set up to impose organisational discipline within the anarchist movement, led by the former Minister of Justice, Juan García Oliver.