Francisca Jordá Montaña: An Example to Follow / A Woman Has Fallen
It is eighty-four years since the Barcelona May days, an anarchist led working-class insurrection in defence of the Spanish revolution. The initiative for and co-ordination of the rising came from the middle ranks of the anarchist movement in the CNT and the FAI; its demobilisation and defeat came from the top. Both the article extract and short article translated below emphasise two key elements of the May days uprising: the prominent involvement of women and the revolutionary solidarity shown behind the barricades between the anarchists and the revolutionary Marxists of the POUM. They commemorate a woman POUM activist, Francisca Jordá Montaña (pictured), who died on 24 May 1937. Jordá was shot when trying to assist a wounded comrade during the May days fighting and died after a long and painful period of hospitalisation. She was a veteran of the Aragón front and one of thousands of barely remembered partisans of the Spanish revolution whose life and death serve as a rejoinder to the contemporary and subsequent mythmaking of Stalinist and nationalist propaganda and liberal historiography.
Possibly Francisca’s funeral in the suburb of Gràcia represented the last public demonstration of the POUM in war-time Barcelona. Within weeks its leadership would be arrested and organisation driven underground. The first of the two translations that follow is a report from the 3 June 1937 edition of Juventud Comunista, the newspaper of the POUM’s youth organisation, the JCI. It provides a moving account of the funeral, which it described as ‘a magnificent demonstration of grief’. The second is an article by the anarchist activist Ada Martí, written for the newspaper of the Friends of Durruti group, El Amigo del Pueblo.
Both articles provide evidence of continuing solidarity between anarchists and POUM members following the May days. Affirming such solidarity in this period was both in defiance of the CNT leadership and an act of considerable bravery. The presence at the funeral of delegations from the DAS (the exiled German anarcho-syndicalist organisation) and the local anarchist defence committee was continuous with the liaison committee these groups had formed with the POUM in Gràcia during the street-fighting.
The article by Ada Martí emphasises the presence of women behind the barricades during the May days. This was one way in which the street-fighting of May resembled that of July 1936, a comparison made frequently at the time. The women who went to the street in July remain icons of revolutionary anti-fascism, while those who returned in May are largely forgotten. This edition of the newsletter is intended as a small contribution to recovering their memory.
An Example to Follow: Francisca Jordá Montaña – F. J.
The procession left the local POUM HQ on C. Córcega (Gràcia). Two lines of young communist women carried the countless floral tributes we have received.
Following them came the band of the Lenin Barracks playing funeral marches. Then the coffin, covered in the red flag of the JCI, borne on the shoulders of young communists from the neighbourhood.
Following behind, three lines of uniformed JCI activists wearing blue shirts and immediately behind them, a section of the Shock Battalion.
Presiding over the ceremony were our comrade’s father and her companion Juan Alcañiz, a veteran activist of our organisation; members of the Executive Committee of the Party and of the Youth, the Local Committee and neighbourhood committees, the Women’s Section, S. R., the Pioneers, the Tarrasa section of the POUM, Association of the War Wounded, Defence Committee (FAI) of Gràcia, DAS (German anarchists), International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth etc.
After processing through the streets of Gràcia we bid farewell to our comrade in the Rambla del Prat to the strains of the Internationale and the Young Guard.
Our heroic comrade Francisca Jordá has left us, fighting for the revolution until the end.
Those who knew her through seven months of struggle in the trenches of Aragón; those who knew of her heroism on the parapets of Casetas, of Río Flumen, of Quicena; of her exemplary attitude on the street, see in her a symbol and an example to follow.
A Woman has Fallen! – Ada Martí
During the recent events of May it was not only men who left their daily tasks to defend, even at the cost of their lives, the conquests of our Revolution, now forgotten by many and threatened by reformists and counterrevolutionaries, dressed in uniforms or ‘uniformed’ by the ‘independent’ or statist star. Women swept aside with absolute disdain and indifference the famous but not always accurate Nietzschean expression: ‘men were born for war and women to be the warrior’s consolation’. Without the least hesitation they exchanged the classic utensils ‘proper to their sex’ for the pistol, revolver or rifle.
On the barricades, alongside the sweat-soaked men, one almost always saw a woman. And that woman who perhaps at other times would not dare go onto the street without the thorough and painstaking application of makeup, strolled around without embarrassment, her overalls in tatters and covered with dust, her face dirty and her hair uncombed, among her comrades in the struggle, whose masculine admiration she couldn’t care less about arousing. And her fearless hands, once fine and delicate, were now stained with rifle oil and toughened by contact with gunpowder.
And just as her male comrades fell at the barricades, so a woman…
This woman – Francisca Jordá Montaña, veteran and well-known activist of the JCI, whose tactics I do not share, but whose bravery and loyalty to the revolutionary cause I cannot deny. She was wounded in the legs when recovering one of her fallen comrades, careless of the bullets whistling around her, and has passed away after a bloody and painful battle with death – the last and universal battle in which sooner or later all must be defeated – the victim of those same people who publicly call themselves our brothers.
She is not the first woman to die bearing arms against the enemies of the Revolution nor – at least, I hope – will she be the last to give her life for it. Women, like men, albeit due to the education we receive, not in the same proportion, know how to fight and die, when the triumph of our ideals demands as much. Whatever Nietzsche’s opinion to the contrary…