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Byways of Spanish Anarchism

Page history last edited by Barry Pateman 5 years ago

Josep A Carreras

PERE BOADAS, PIONEER OF THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALIST ACTION GROUPS IN 1920s BARCELONA

Pere (Pedro) Boadas i Rivas was born in Barcelona in 1894 and died in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1972. Along with Medir Mart and Pere Vandellós, he was one of the leaders of the first anarcho-syndicalist action group organised in Catalonia from late 1917 onwards, prior to the age of pistolerismo in Barcelona over the following six years. He can therefore be regarded as the pioneer of those anarcho-syndicalist action groups during the pistolerismo in Barcelona in the early 1020s, of which so much has been said even though very little is known about the gun-slinging protagonists themselves. 

From 1917 to 1924 when he was arrested for the last time in Barcelona, Pere Boadas was the organisational overseer of the many action groups that popped up in the course of the social warfare between anarcho-syndicalist gunmen and the gunmen of the bosses and police; this was in addition to his ongoing participation in his own action groups.

In 1927 he emerged from prison and after a trip to Paris in 1928, he moved away to Montevideo in Uruguay where he was to make contact with the expropriator anarchist action groups still carrying out hold-ups for the cause, the most active and most wanted group in both Uruguay and Argentina being the one led by Miguel Arcángel Roscigno.

After carrying out a cocked-up armed robbery (it left 3 dead and 3 people with gunshot wounds) in Montevideo along with another two Catalan anarchists, he would be arrested and held in a Uruguayan prison for 25 years, which made him a famous figure over there.

During the 25 years he spent in prison he became an ideologue of anarchism and of the Uruguayan revolutionary movements and would gain great notoriety for introducing the revolutionary idea to lots of ordinary prisoners who had initially been merely criminals.

The man who only recently was appointed president of Uruguay in 2012, José Mugica, a former guerrilla chief with the Tupamaros group active in Uruguay between the late 1960s and the early 1970s, stated a few years ago that he made Pere Boadas’s acquaintance during the 1950s when he was a young man and that Boadas had been one of his revolutionary reference points.

 

 

BOADAS’S FIRST ACTION GROUP IN LATE 1917

In August 1927 there was a general strike across the entire Spanish state; it had been called by the anarcho-syndicalist CNT union and by the socialist UGT union, after the police disbanded a gathering of parliamentarians out to change the cacique (political boss) -reliant rule of the monarchy. Aside from standing four-square behind the parliamentarians, the strike also pursued the usual demands of labour. This general strike was to be harshly crushed by the army and the police, claiming a death toll of no less than 36 in Catalonia alone, especially in Barcelona and Sabadell. 32 of the dead were trade unionists, mostly from the CNT; 2 were police officers and 2 were soldiers. A further 35 lives were lost across the rest of Spain.

Right after the bloody troubles of the August 1917 strike that claimed dozens of lives the bosses of many Catalan forms agreed among themselves not to hire or tolerate workers who were unionised, whether they belonged to the CNT or to some crafts union that had taken part in the strike, and this was to generate a widespread climate of active violence in many workers and unions.

In light of this situation, one group of anarcho-syndicalists was to set up the very first action group established for the purpose of carrying out attacks serving the unions rather than just mounting individual attacks or spontaneous clashes between strikers and strike-breakers, as had been the practice in previous years.

From September 1917 on, the first anarcho-syndicalist action group was up and running, made up chiefly of Pere Boadas i Rivas, Joaquim Vandellós i Romero, Pere Vandellós i Romero, Pere Valero i Ariño, Carles Anglès i Corbella, Medir Martí i Augé, Francesc Font i Oliveras aka “El Caracola” and Eduard Lara i Oliver. The group went by the name of the “Els Sense Nom/ Los Sin Nombres” (The Nameless Ones).

These armed activists, every one of them a CNT member, offered their services to the CNT leadership, specifically to Ángel Pestaña, as he himself recalls in his memoirs: at the time he was manager of the Catalan CNT’s newspaper Solidaridad Obrera. It was an offer that the CNT leadership was to decline.

Despite the refusal by the Catalan CNT’s leadership’s refusal, though, some of the craft unions, especially in the textile industry, both those from the CNT and others which were not part of the CNT, such as the Radium Foremen’s Union, welcomed the offer by the anarcho-syndicalist action group headed by Pere Boadas and agreed to slip them some money to fund their activities against the more repressive employers who were continually being denounced from the pages of the Catalan CNT’s mouthpiece, Solidaridad Obrera.

The first attack was to come against the textile manufacturer Joan Tàpies who was gunned down in the El Clot barrio on 7 October 1917. Within days, on 24 October 1917, Jaume Casedevall, a charge hand at Eusebi Bertran’s textile factory, was shot down. On 30 November 1917, the businessman Antoni Trinxet, owner of one of the largest textile plants, was shot and wounded while riding in his car, but his driver, Miquel Esquirol, was killed. On 4 January 1918 Jeroni Figueras, director of the Busquets Germans (Busquets Brothers) firm, another textile firm, was wounded in an attack.

THE  JANUARY  1918 ATTACK ON JOSEP ALBERT BARRET

8 January 1918 was to see the businessman Josep Albert Barret, chairman of the Metalworking employers’ association, shot dead on the very doorstep of the Industrial School on the corner of the Calle Urgell in Barcelona where he taught classes and where he was director of the Labour Elementary School. The teacher Francesc Pastor who had been walking alongside him but was not the intended target sustained a leg wound. In this instance, however, the attack had targeted, not a textile industry employer, like the others, but one from the metalworking industry.

Over January and February 1918 the police had rounded up the anarcho-syndicalists Medir Martí, Francesc Font aka ‘El Caracola’, Eduard Lara and Pere Vandellós who belonged to that first action group, but they were accused, not of killing Barret, but of killing the other, textrile industry employers.

Shortly after that the police picked up Eduard Ferrer, chairman of the CNT Mechanics’ Union at the time of the attack, suspecting him of having funded the attack on the businessman Josep Albert Barret. Eduard Ferrer was, however, released a short time later.

On 30 March 1918, Inspector Bravo Portillo ordered the arrests of Pere Boadas, Joaquim Vandellós, Pere Valero and Carles Anglès, as suspects in the killing of Barret, and he also arrested as the instigator Josep Solé, the serving chairman of the CNT Mechanic’s Union who had taken over from Eduard Ferrer. The union’s treasurer, Josep Dardes, another suspect, was able to escape.

Inspector Bravo Portillo, who had arrested Boadas’s group for the murder of Barret, was an old hand when it came to cracking down on trade unionists, having been at it since 1909, and three months after the arrests were made the French espionage service was to find out that Bravo Portillo was not merely a police officer but had been active as a German spy during the First World War. According to the French authorities, Bravo Portillo had been passing intelligence to the Germans regarding shipments of goods that some Catalan businessmen were making to the Allies fighting against Germany, something that the French authorities were to pass on to the Spanish government as well as to the Catalan CNT leadership which had an interest in investigating Bravo Portillo.

On learning this news, the Spanish authorities were to place Bravo Portillo under arrest for espionage in July 1918. From then on the Catalan CNT’s lawyers set about accusing Inspector Bravo Portillo with having himself been behind the attack on the businessman Barret because the latter had been producing shells and other war materiel for sale to the Allies, the intention having been to sabotage a supplier of the Allies whilst simultaneously manufacturing an excuse for a crackdown on the CNT in Catalonia.

In November 1918, once the First World War was over, Bravo Portillo was to be freed, but dismissed from the police service. But even though he had been thrown out of the police, Catalonia’s Captain-General, Joaquin Milans del Bosch, in cahoots with the more radical employers, recruited him as a special assistant in the creation of a secret gang that would take on the anarcho-syndicalists.

TE BOADAS GANG ON TRIAL

While the Boadas gang was in prison, the Catalan CNT held a congress in July 1918, initially just for its Catalan sindicatos únicos  which were seen as unions based upon sector or industry, replacements for the craft-based unions. This had boosted the Catalan CNT’s powers of mobilisation (the CNT there was headed by general secretary Salvador Seguí). In next to no time the CNT grew to a membership of 450,000 in Catalonia. During the Catalan CNT’s congress and from inside prison,  Pere Boadas, Medir Martí, Pere Vandellós and Carles Anglès had sent a message of support to be read in public.

The great power of the Catalan CNT’s sindicatos únicos was demonstrated once and for all in the strike at the power supply company known as La Canadiense; this turned into a Catalonia-wide general strike lasting from early February to the beginning of April 1919. Even though the strike finished up with thousands arrested and detained, a state of emergency throughout the ensuing months and the introduction of lock-outs by employers, in the course of that strike the Catalan CNT had managed to compel the government to introduce the historic 8-hour working day, not just in Catalonia but right across the Spanish state.

In the wake of this spectacular strike, Catalonia’s more radical employers were to strengthen their contacts with Bravo Portillo by hiring gunmen from his gang, which was known as the “Banda Negra” (Black Gang), to attack anarcho-syndicalist leaders in Barcelona.

This was the backdrop against which the Boadas gang was brought to trial in April 1919 for the assassination of Barret in January the previous year.

At that April 1919 trial, Eduard Ferrer, who was chairman of the CNT mechanics’ union at the time of the murder (the union had put up the money to pay the gunmen who killed Barret) informed the judge that he was in a position to state that Josep Solé and Josep Dardés – vice-chair and treasurer of the CNT Mechanics’ Union at the time of the murder – had incited and paid Pere Boadas, Joaquim Vandellós, Pere Valero and Carles Anglès to kill Barret, paying them with funds taken from the Mechanics’ Union. It also made quite plain that when the accused were arrested on 29 March 1918, it was on the basis of information given by Eduard Ferrer, who was now repeating the allegation.

In the end, the accused were acquitted in June 1919 on the basis of lack of evidence. The defence lawyers had argued that the inspector by whom they had been arrested – Bravo Portillo – was a proven German spy and the fact that the late businessman Josep Albert Barret was selling war materials to the Allies was the reason why Bravo Portillo, no less, had set up the assassination of Barret as a way of punishing an employer who was trading with the Allies and also of providing the pretext for a crackdown on the Catalan CNT.

That, plus the fact that most of the witnesses called failed to present themselves – many argued that they had been threatened by the anarcho-syndicalist action groups, which was par for the course – helped bring about the final acquittal.

In public the upper echelons of the Catalan CNT stuck to the line that Bravo Portillo , through his ‘plant’ inside the CNT, Eduard Ferrer, had instigated the killing of Barret by way of sabotaging the Allies and triggering a crackdown on the CNT. The actual allegation raised by Eduard Ferrer against his fellow CNT members from the Mechanics’ Union – that they had incited ad funded the members of the anarcho-syndicalist action group to carry out the murder – was a very odd thing, suggesting that he was a ‘plant’ inside the CNT or had been threatened into reporting or turning in Pere Boadas’s gang.

Even so, it ought to be underlined that Josep Albert Barret, prior to his murder, had been harshly denounced in the Catalan CNT’s paper, Solidaridad Obrera, in its 26 and 30 October 1917 editions, for sacking over 300 workers who were members of unions that had taken part in the August 1917 strike wave and with threatening those trying to bargain or argue with strike-breakers. As we know, the very same anarcho-syndicalist gang that had murdered Barret had previously mounted attacks on employers for the very same reasons towards the end of 1917, so it was scarcely surprising if they were implicated in the attack on Barret, given the features of that action group.

So there is a lingering doubt still as to whether it actually was Pere Boadas’s gang that carried out the killing or a different bunch of Inspector Bravo Portillo’s goons.

Many point to the more likely scenario being that Inspector Bravo Portillo, spying for the Germans, had capitalised on the existence of Pere Boadas’s ‘Els Sense Nom’ group and its having carried out previous attacks on businessmen to incite them – through his ‘plant’, the Mechanics’ Union chairman, Eduard Ferrer – carry out the attack so as to be rid of a businessman who was working with the Allies and at the same time step up the repression targeting the CNT. To this day, however, the truth of the matter remains unclear.

Earlier, in April 1919, Medir Marti, Francesc Font, Eduard Lara and Pere Vandellós had also been acquitted in the case brought in relation to the attacks mounted in late 1917 and on 4 January 1918. The whole of the conventional press was stunned at this and alleged that the jury and the witnesses alike in both cases had been threatened, which was very likely the case and this was becoming standard practice for the Catalan CNT’s action groups.

Some have accused Pere Boadas’s “Els Sense Nom” group of having set off the cycle of pistolerismo in Barcelona at the time with its late 1917/early 1918 attacks on business owners. Others point the finger at Inspector Bravo Portillo’s espionage activities. The truth is that the cycle had been under way since the August 1917 strike in which dozens of anarcho-syndicalists in Barcelona and district were killed, some businessmen being determined to smash the unions. The La Canadiense strike of February 1919, when the Catalan CNT’s sindicatos únicos thwarted both the employers and the Spanish state itself, prove the last straw because lots of employers then hired gunmen to attack the Catalan anarcho-syndicalists, thereby ushering in, once and for all, the pistolero era in Barcelona.

As Pere Boadas, Pere Vandellós, Medir Martí and Carles Anglès from that pioneering action group of 1917 were being released from prison, they made contact with the brothers Progreso Ródenas and Volney Ródenas from Valencia; during their time in custody the Ródenas brothers had stepped into their shoes and seen to the raising of funds and the coordination of a few new anarcho-syndicalist action groups that had arisen in Barcelona. Together they would all establish a bona fide armed infrastructure for all the action groups from the Catalan CNT’s sindicatos únicos.

BRAVO PORTILLO, TARGETED BY THE ACTION GROUPS

On 17 July1919 the employers’ gang of hired killers under Inspector Bravo Portillo’s control set out had to kill Pau Sabater, the Dyers’ Union delegate (his union was part of the Waterworkers’ Union). Sabater was the first CNT member to die directly at the hands of Bravo Portillo’s gang, in that, in an earlier attack on another CNT leader by the name of Pere Massoni, Massoni had survived. They went on to gun down the anarcho-syndicalist Josep Castillo the very same day.

When Luis Fernández – one of Pau Sabater’s assassins – was picked up on 24 August 1919, he confessed that he had been acting on the orders of Inspector Bravo Portillo and that there had been another thug with him in the killing of Sabater, to wit, Joan Serra, also a member of Bravo Portillo’s gang. Joan Serra was to be shot dead a few months later by Medir Martí who was a great friend of Sabater’s and who was himself also in the Dyers’ Union.

That admission by one of Bravo Portillo’s goons was formal notice to everyone that the erstwhile inspector was implicated in the raising of the gangs of gunmen in the hire of the employers. Shockingly, however, Bravo Portillo was not arrested, since he was under the protection of the Captain-General of Catalonia, Milans del Bosch.

Meanwhile, what with lock-outs by the bosses, blacklisting and armed strike-breakers, there were regular exchanges of gunfire with more employers, CNT members, scabs and police being killed than we have room to list here.

One of the chief targets for the anarcho-syndicalist groups was Bravo Portillo and the informer Eduard Ferrer, whose days were numbered.

In the end. On 5 September 1919, three members of an anarcho-syndicalist action group managed to gun down Bravo Portillo in Barcelona. It seems certain that Progreso Ródenas had a hand in the attack on Bravo Portillo since he was recognised at the outset by a number of eye-witnesses, but there are doubts as to who his two colleagues were. Some accounts have it that may have been Ferrán Castañer and Samuel Pérez i Gandia, since they were two of the most active members of Progreso Ródenas’s group and since they customarily operated as a team.

Within days, on 16 September 1919, Eduard Ferrer was also gunned down in Barcelona: he was the anarcho-syndicalist accused of being a ‘plant’ of having named Boadas’s gang as having been responsible for the assassination of the employer, Barret. The chief suspect in Ferrer’s death was Pere Boadas, who was even arrested. But Boadas was soon released for lack of evidence.

THE SITUATION TAKES AN EVEN MORE RADICAL TURN IN BARCELONA

10 October 1919 marked the foundation in Barcelona of the so-called Sindicats Lliures (Free Trade Unions), mostly led by the Carlists Ramón Sales i Amenós and Joan Laguia  i  Lliteras, among others. These Sindicats Lliures saw themselves as trade union competition for the CNT, less radical than the CNT and thus more acceptable to the employers. However, the Sindicats Lliures were not just the trade union wing of Carlism, as they recruited lots of members from various more conservative quarters eager to take on the Catalan CNT.

Early in November 1919 talks opened between Catalan CNT representatives led by Salvador Seguí and the employers through a mixed commission sponsored by the civil governor of Barcelona, Julio Amado, but those talks failed and the employers embarked upon lock-outs and blacklisting targeting the anarcho-syndicalists in Catalonia. In December 1919 Maestre Laborde aka the Conde de Salvatierra was appointed as the new civil governor in Barcelona, he being more favourably disposed to a crackdown than his predecessor Julio Amado. The social warfare escalated once again, as did the attentats which mainly targeted strike-breakers and the bosses behind the lock-outs and blacklisting: the pattern laid down by Pere Boadas’s ‘Sense Nom’ group back in 1917 was followed.

At the beginning of December 1919 the CNT was due to hold a national plenum in Madrid and CNT sindicatos únicos were to be launched just as they had been earlier and unilaterally by the Catalan CNT back in July 1918.

 

THE ANARCHO-SYNDICALIST ACTION GROUPS EXPAND IN 1920

Following the demise of ex-Inspector Bravo Portillo, a one-time German spy by the name of Rudolf (some say Fritz) Stallmann, who went by the name of the Baron Koenig, and who had been working with Bravo Portillo, stepped into his shoes in respect of recruiting gunmen on behalf of the employers.

During the first few months on 1920 the anarcho-syndicalist action groups were to clash in the streets with the bosses’ gunmen from Baron Koening’s gang and there were numerous shoot-outs and deaths on both sides. But by June that year, at the request of the head of the Employers’ Federation, Félix Graupera, no less, the Spanish government ordered Baron Koenig out of Spanish territory since the Baron was operating like a mafioso and was sometimes demanding cash from employers, not just for carrying out attacks, but for mere protection. A few employers even suspected that the Baron had mounted the odd attack on employers who had declined to pay. 

Barcelona’s civil governor, the Conde de Salvatierra, who was all for a crackdown handed in his resignation following the expulsion of Baron Koenig and the release of prisoners by the government, by way of making his disagreement plain and off he went to live in Valencia. Shortly after that. On 4 August 1920, an anarcho-syndicalist action group travelled down from Barcelona to gun the Code de Salvatierra down in Valencia in retaliation for his all-out warfare policy in Barcelona. After that the more hard-line employers resorted to gunmen they hired directly for themselves from among the ranks of the Sindicats Lliures. Over the following three years, the shoot-outs and attacks traded between the action groups from the CNT’s sindicato único and thugs from the Sindicats Lliures claimed hundreds of lives in the Barcelona area.

From early 1020 onwards, Pere Boadas, Progreso Ródenas, Volney Rídenas, Medir Marti, Pere Vandellós and Ramón Archs i Serra presided over the Catalan CNT’s armed groups and, besides having action groups of their own, they took the chief responsibility for coordinating and ensuring funding for many of the anarcho-syndicalist action groups whose numbers had risen considerably.

A few of those action groups were led by Josep Saleta i Pla aka ‘el Nano de Sants’, Andreu Mora i Escudé aka ‘el Noi de Terrassa’, Restituto Gómez Adelantado, Alfons Miquel Martorell, Eusebi Brau i Mestres, Manuel Talens i Giner aka ‘el Valencianet’, Francesc Garcia i Garcia aka ‘el Patilles’, Francesc Martínez i Valls, Ferran Sánchez i Raja aka ‘el Negre de Gracia’, Gener Minguet, Juan López Sánchez, Josep Batlle i Salvat, Jacint Vila i Casal aka ‘’l’Escombriaire’, Acracio Vidal and Alfons Vila aka ‘el Poeta’ (aka Bautista Acher) among others, with a fair number of activists in their ranks.

Al these activists and the members of their groups were to be behind many of the shootings and attacks on the bosses’ goons, members of the Sindicats Lliures, employers, politicians and police officers, whom it would take too long to list.

By 23 April 1920, the police had arrested Progreso Ródenas following a shoot-out in Barcelona’s Ronda Sant Pau in which both Ródenas and police inspector Luis León were wounded.

MARTINEZ ANIDO, CIVIL GOVERNOR OF BARCELONA, STEPS UP THE REPRESSION

After months of attentats and dozens of killings in shootings in Barcelona, the prime minister, Eduardo Dato, decided on 1 November 1920 , in the light of the enduring violence in Barcelona, to appoint General Severiano Martinez Anido civil governor over Catalonia and gave him carte blanche to crush the Catalan CNT at any cost. Martinez Anido had previously served as military governor in Catalonia and had long been involved in the crackdown.

The new civil governor of Catalonia, General Severiano Martinez Anido, was to embark upon a drive to wipe out the Catalan CNT, physically, en masse and as an organisation. First he outlawed the CNT in Catalonia and then ordered a crackdown, arresting hundreds of anarcho-syndicalists prominent in entirely trade union activities, among them their leader and general secretary Salvador Seguí. Seguí, along with many others, would subsequently be deported to the La Mola fortress in Mahón.

Next, Martinez Anido met with Barcelona police chief Miguel Arlegui and leaders of the Sindicats Lliures, the Sometent and the more hard-line employers, to draw up a list of anarcho-syndicalists to be targeted and murdered by thugs or through recourse to the ley de fugas.

With Salvador Seguí now in prison, Ramón Archs i Serra became general secretary of the Catalonia Regional Labour Confederation (CRTC) of the outlawed CNT.

Ramón Archs, who had always been in favour of armed struggle, organised a new line-up to coordinate the action groups along with Pere Vandellós, Pere Boadas, Medir Martí and Simó Piera.

Ramón Archs moved that, alongside the street warfare between gun gangs, they had to lash out at the higher-ups and he suggested that prime minister Eduardo Dato be targeted, along with police chief Miguel Arlegui, police Inspector Antonio Espejo and governor Severiano Martinez Anido.

Four members of anarcho-syndicalist action groups from the Gracia district of Barcelona led by Medir Marti set off separately for Madrid between September 1920 and January 1921 to lay the groundwork for the assassination of prime minister Eduardo Dato. The four were Pere Mateu i Cusidó, Ramón Casanellas i Lluch, Lluis Nicolau i Fort and Nicolau’s wife, Llucia Fors i Felip. In Madrid they had logistical support from Madrid CNT personnel led by Mauro Bajatierra.

JANUARY 1921 AND THE LEY DE FUGAS IN OPERATION

The first two months of 1921 were to be the bloodiest, with a total of 44 dead in the Barcelona area during January and February. 35 of the dead were anarcho-syndicalists, most of them murdered using the ley de fugas ploy. But on 18 January the action groups claimed the life of police inspector Antonio Espejo, one of the targets of the top echelons of the armed anarcho-syndicalist groups.

On 26 February 1921 the police tracked down and arrested Pere Boadas. This was Boadas’s second arrest. The police charged him with membership of the leadership of the anarcho-syndicalist armed gangs in Catalonia. Pere Boadas was to spend upwards of a year and a half in prison and was temporarily out of action in his role as an orchestrator of the anarcho-syndicalists’ armed struggle.

Pere Boadas was also lucky that he did not have the ley de fugas applied to him because objections from some politicians from a range of parties in the Madrid parliament to the bloodshed in January 1921 may have been the saving of him.

At the beginning of March 1921, after dozens of anarcho-syndicalists had been murdered in Barcelona, Ramón Archs put into action the plan to assassinate the prime minister and briefed the team that he had had move to Madrid from Barcelona two months before; on 8 March 1921 the anarcho-syndicalists Pedro Mateu, Ramón Casanellas and Lluis Nicolau gunned down prime minister Eduardo Dato, firing at his car from an ‘Indian’ motorcycle and sidecar near the Puerta de Alcalá in Madrid.

On 13 March 1921, five days after the Dato assassination, Pere Mateu was arrested in Madrid whereas Ramón Casanellas, Lluis Nicolau and Llucia Fors managed to evade capture for a time.  

The police were still unaware that Ramón Archs and Pere Vandellós were the ones who had planned the attack or that they were leaders of the underground armed groups. The most sought after man was Medir Martí who belonged to Boadas’s first ‘Els Sense Nom’ group in late 1917; it was he who led the Gracia barrio action groups and it was known that he was in the very same group as the newly arrested Pere Mateu.

Martinez Anido’s reaction to the Dato assassination was a military one, as he stepped up the repression, the arrests and help funnelled to the Sindicats Lliures goons. The new prime minister, Dato’s replacement, was Allendesalazar, who continued to back Martinez Anido’s crackdown. Over the ensuing months, gunmen from the Sindicats Lliures, enjoying impunity and backing from the police and from Martinez Anido, went on to kill dozens of anarcho-syndicalists in Barcelona and district. The anarcho-syndicalist action groups also hit back but the support that the bosses’ hired guns enjoyed from the police and from governor Martinez Anido ensured that many more anarcho-syndicalists than Sindicats Lliures members perished during 1921.

HEAVY POLICE CRACKDOWN ON THE CNT ACTION GROUPS

Between May and December 1921 hundreds of arrests were made among the leaders of the aforementioned action groups as well as members of their action groups, not to mention that many anarcho-syndicalists were killed in attacks or under the ley de fugas.

It had all begun on 2 May 1921 when one of the bombs being made by the anarcho-syndicalist action groups on premises they had in the Calle Toledo in the Sants barrio – premises used as a meeting-place for the action groups as well as a dump for weapons and as a bomb factory – was accidentally detonated. The explosion claimed the life of Roser Benavent, the anarcho-syndicalist who ran the premises which posed as a clothing store, together with her partner Vicenç Sales who was wounded. Another four anarcho-syndicalists – Joan Anrau, Joan Bautista Cucha, Miquel Tonijuan i Amorós and Domingo Meiban – were killed in the explosion.

Two very young girls – 17 year old Josepa Crespo i Ballester and Roser Segarra i Travé, 19 – were also injured and arrested over the Calle Toledo explosion. Both these young anarcho-syndicalists had been directly involved in some attentats and they were two of the few action group women members to have been directly involved in operations, given that most action group women looked after intelligence-gathering or harboured activists in secret safe houses and the like.

The police investigation into the circle of friends of those arrested over the Calle Toledo in Sants accounted for many of the arrests made among members of the anarcho-syndicalist action groups in Barcelona in 1921.

Of the top echelon of the Catalan CNT’s armed action groups, only Medir Martí escaped arrest by going to ground; others, like Ramón Archs and Pere Vandellós were to perish under the ley de fugas after being arrested on 24 or 25 June 1921.

1921 was to prove the most violent of all the years of pistolerismo in Barcelona, with some 150 lives lost in Barcelona and the surrounding area.

THE LEADERS OF THE CATALAN CNT EMERGE FROM PRISON

Following the severe knocks the CNT had taken in Catalonia in 1921 in terms of arrests made and fatalities suffered by its armed groups and trade union members alike, 1922 opened relatively uneventfully, with “only” 4 fatalities over its first three months.

In April 1922 the new prime minister José Sánchez Guerra released most of the union leaders who had been jailed for upwards of a year and a half; they included Salvador Segu who was then appointed national general secretary of the CNT.

The government also lifted the ban on the CNT in Catalonia in a fresh effort to pacify things and the CNT resumed its trade union activities in Catalonia.

However, many of those who had defected to the Sindicats Lliures in 1921 while the CNT was outlawed returned to the CNT fold once the latter resumed its trade union operations in Catalonia in April 1922. This was to trigger some attacks by Sindicat Lliures goons on the would-be defectors from their unions and that drew a response from the anarcho-syndicalist action groups and pistolerismo returned to Barcelona.

Pere Boadas who had been arrested in February 1921 without charge – aside from his being suspected of belonging to the top rank of the anarcho-syndicalist action groups – had been released during the first weeks of 1922, but as the shootings escalated in Barcelona once more, a fresh warrant was issued for his arrest and he was captured again, this time in Zaragoza, to where he had fled on 20 July 1922.

The mores hard-line employers also reacted to the legalisation of the CNT by drawing up blacklists and as a rule they refused to hire members of the Catalonian CNT’s sindicatos únicos ; it was same old story. This led to a number of CNT unions orchestrating some hold-ups by way of support for their unemployed members as well as the action groups.

The biggest raid was on 1 September 1922 when the MZA (Madrid-Zaragoza-Alicante) train coming from Madrid and carrying the payroll for the railway company was robbed by an action group as it passed through Barcelona’s Poble Nou station.

Carles Anglès i Corbella, one of the original line-up of Boadas’s ‘Els Sense Nom’ group back in 1917 was one of the organisers and participants in this raid. The other members implicated in the robbery were Ramón Recasens i Miret, Victor Quero Lahoz, Josep Francès i Jorqués, Francesc Cuñat i  Marco, Antonio Jiménez Martínez, Marcelino Da Silva Vilasuso, Manuel Ramos Alonso and Antoni Mas i Gómez aka ‘el Tartamut’.

The train robbery netted 149,000 pesetas, a fortune at the time, but in the shoot-out with the guards and soldiers protecting the train, 3 lives were lost – the anarcho-syndicalist Victor Quero, one of the guards and a railway employee. Ramón Recasens took a bullet but managed to escape with the rest in a car.

Within days three of the anarcho-syndicalist raiders had been arrested: Josep Francès, Marcelina Da Silva and Antoni Mas aka ‘el Tartamut’.

The other five raiders – Francesc Cuñat, Antonio Jiménez, Manuel Ramos, Carles Anglès and the wounded Ramón Recasens managed to cross the border into France. Cuñat, Jiménez and Ramos were arrested in Cerbère by French police, but were not extradited. Ramón Recasens and Carles Anglès made it out to France and evaded capture.

Given that at the CNT congress in Zaragoza in June 1922 the majority had sided with the moderate anarcho-syndicalist camp led by Salvador Seguí (who was in favour of working alongside other left-wing groups) and turned against the hard-line anarchist faction which was dropped from the leadership, in October 1922 a group of anarchists from the CNT in Catalonia joined forces with a group of anarchists recently arrived in Barcelona from the Aragon CNT and launched a group called ‘Los Solidarios’ who were out to conjure up a radical anarchist alternative to the Barcelona-based CNT leadership.

The original members of ‘Los Solidarios’ drawn from the Catalan CNT were the Catalans Joan Garcia i Oliver, Alfons Miquel Martorell and Eusebi Brau i Mestres, the Valencia Ricard Sanz, the Murcian Miguel Garcia Vivancos and the Aragonese Gregorio Jover (who jioined the group a few months later); they joined forces with an action group from the Aragon CNT that had only recently arrived in Barcelona and which was made up chiefly of Leon natives Buenaventura Durruti, Gregorio Martínez aka ‘el Toto’, and Marcelino del Campo, plus the Aragonese Francisco Ascaso, Domingo Ascaso, Alejandro Ascaso and Rafael Torres Escartí,n and the Asturian Aurelio Fernández and the Navarrese Gregorio Suberviola Bargutia. For the time being, the function of the new group would be boosting the hard-line anarchist faction within the Barcelona CNT.

Meanwhile and despite the parliamentary criticism of his mailed fist approach, Martinez Anido was still working hand in glove as civil governor with the employers’ hired gunmen. In October 1922 however, Martinez Anido managed to plant two of his men – Inocencio Feced and police officer Florentino Pellejero – inside an anarcho-syndicalist action group that had set its sights on his assassination. Inocencio Feced was to show them the spot on the Ramblas where Martinez Anido would supposedly emerge from a theatre and where the attack would take place. The attack-cum-trap ended in a shoot-out in which Rafael Climent, Adolfo Bermejo and Josep Claramonte (anarcho-syndicalists from the action group involved) were killed. Another member of the group, Manuel Talens aka ‘el Valencianet’ managed to shoot back at police plant Florentino Pellejo and escaped despite a bullet wound in the leg. Josep Gardeñas and Amalio Cerdeño also got away initially.

But through the ‘plant’ Inocencio Feced, Amalio Cerdeño was tracked to his home, hauled away and gunned down in yet another application of the ley de fugas. But, despite being seriously wounded, before he died Cerdeño had time to explain to prosecutor Medina at the hospital all about the ambush and the infiltrators. When the Spanish prime minister Sánchez Guerra got to hear about this, he dismissed Martinez Anido once and for all and likewise Barcelona police chief Miguel Arlegui.

With Martinez Anido gone, there was a temporary change in circumstances and the Sindicats Lliures gunmen lost their protection if caught red-handed in some incident.

Pere Boadas, who had raised another action group upon his release from prison went on to work in concert with Los Solidarios in a drive to persuade the action groups that, in addition to retaliatory action they should be laying the groundwork for an anarchist revolution, since Boadas belonged to the hard-line anarchist faction and was one of the people most familiar with the action group personnel, having been a pioneer since 1917.

LOS SOLIDARIOS START TO OPERATE OUTSIDE OF CATALONIA

Since there were enough action groups operating in Barcelona, it occurred to Los Solidarios that they should pull a grand stroke outside of Catalonia. At the time even Joan Peiró who had taken over from Salvador Seguí as CNT general secretary  and who belonged to the moderate faction was also taking part in the campaign to orchestrate retaliation for the murder of Seguí, together with many another who had previously espoused a more moderate line.

In his memoirs, Joan García Oliver says that it was agreed with Joan Peiró that Los Solidarios would track Martinez Anido down and kill him in Donostia in the Basque country which I where they reckoned he was. It was also agreed that non-Catalan members of Los Solidarios would be dispatched there since, given the social violence raging in Catalonia at the time, a Catalan accent raised suspicions in other parts of Spain.

In May 18923 Buenaventura Durruti set off for Madrid and a meeting with anarchist groups there to orchestrate a concerted action strategy and to raise support for a range of attentats. But the police arrested him just as he was boarding the train from Madrid back to Barcelona and he was dispatched to Donostia (San Sebastián) to stand trial, since he was wanted there in connection with a hold-up that had taken place some time earlier. But the eye-witnesses failed to identify him and he was let go after a month. During the month that Durruti was in custody, however, some Los Solidarios who came from Aragon were to carry out their first two deadly attacks.

In May 1923 a Los Solidarios gang, unable to locate Martinez Anido in Donostia decided off its own bat to mount other attacks outside Catalonia.

On 17 May 1923 Los Solidarios members Gregorio Suberviola and Gegoro ‘el Toto’ Martinez gunned down  Lieutenant=Colonel Faustino González Regueral in León; the victim was renowned for his oppression of workers during his time as civil governor of Vizcaya.  In so doing the Aragonese faction of Los Solidarios burst on to the scene as a group by mounting a successful deadly attack and one mounted outside of Barcelona.

On 4 June 1923 the Los Solidarios members Francisco Ascaso and Rafael Torres Escartín gunned down Cardinal Soldevila, notorious funder of the Sindicats Lliures.

Those two outrages caused a sensation since they had occurred outside of Catalonia, targeting a high ranking army officer and an important Church leader. These outrages boosted the reputation of Los Solidarios and helped them recruit more supporters to the hard-line anarchist cause.

Despite all this, the CNT general secretary Joan Peiró and some factions within the Catalan CNT, did not look kindly upon those two attacks mounted unilaterally by Los Solidarios outside Catalonia and targeting an army officer and a Church leader, since they were of the view that they would cause general alarm throughout the country and bring even more repression down on Catalan anarcho-syndicalism, since it was plain that the perpetrators of the attacks had struck from Catalonia.

In late June 1923 Francisco Ascaso was arrested in Zaragoza and charged with the assassination of Cardinal Soldevila. But a month later he was to break out of Zaragoza prison with the aid of an anarchist team on the outside.

PERE BOADAS’S GANG TRIES TO ASSASSINATE PERE MÁRTIR HOMS

Pere Boadas carried on helping out with his group’s many attacks; one of the ones we know about and for which he was later to be arrested, was the one mounted against the leader of the employers’ hired guns.

On 4 June 1923, on the very same day as Francisco Ascaso and Rafael Torres Escartín killed Cardinal Soldevila in Zaragoza, Pere Boadas and members of his action group mounted an attack on Pere Màrtir Homs, the head of the main gang of goons hired by the bosses and an occasional participant in their attacks himself.

The members of the group – Pere Boadas i Rivas, Josep Espuñes i Bach, Joaquim Pons  Dilmer and Joaquin Blanco Martinez (nick-named ‘el Valladolid’, having been born in that city, or ‘el Picón’ on the basis that he had previously used the alias José Picón) headed for the Calle del Carmen in Barcelona, knowing that Pere Màrtir Homs would be emerging from a meeting there; they intended to kill him.

The task of killing Pere Màrtir Homs fell to Josep Espuñes, whereas Pere Boadas and Joaquim Pons were to provide Espuñes with cover and “deal with” Homs’s bodyguards. One of Pere Màrtir’s bodyguards, José Fernàndez Alegría, who was a police officer, spotted Blanco coming and, knowing already that he was a member of an action group, he recognised him and shouted to the others “Watch out! Here comes ‘el Picón’ and made to head him off. Immediately, Boadas, Espuñes and Pons opened up on the policeman-cum-bodyguard from the corner and he fell to the ground, wounded. Joaquim Blanco turned around and finished him off where he lay.

A stray bullet from the exchange of gunfire with the other bodyguards (also police officers) claimed the life of a waiter from a bar; his name was Pere Garriga. The three anarcho-syndicalists then took to their heels. They had killed one of his police escort but Pere Màrtir Homs was unscathed. And a waiter had accidentally been killed in the shoot-out, albeit that it is still not certain who had fired the stray shots.

In mid-August 1923 the police arrested Josep Espuñes in Barcelona and on 29 August it was the turn of Joaquin Blanco aka ‘el Valladolid’ in Madrid; the latter was arrested just as he was arriving by train from Andalusia, having fled there. Both were charged in connection with the attack on the head of the employers’ hired guns, Pere Màrtir Homs, an attack in the course of which a policeman had been killed. Pere Boadas had yet to be tracked down, as had Joaquim Pons.

In the wake of the lethal attacks mounted that May by Los Solidarios against Lieutenant-Colonel Gonzàlez Regueral in León and Cardinal Soldevila in Zaragoza – attacks that made the group’s reputation – Los Solidarios regrouped in Barcelona in July 1923.

With Durruti and García Oliver talking the lead Los Solidarios considered throwing themselves whole-heartedly into the spiral of attacks and retaliation that were happening in Barcelona in concert with the other action groups and concentrating on carrying out big hold-ups to fund the purchase of arms for the coming revolution that looked beyond mere retaliation.

On 18 July 1923 they raided the Padró Bank in Manresa. The following day, 19 July, they held up a Barcelona city council employee just as he was about to deposit 95,000 pesetas. On 7 August 1923 they attacked traders in the Borne market in a shop opposite the Estación de Francia. On 8 August the raided a rent collection agency in the Calle Avinyó, netting 85,000 pesetas. All of these hold-ups were very well organized and very profitable. Los Solidarios were amassing a huge amount of money and some of them spent some of it on setting up a bomb-making factory in Barcelona under the supervision of Eusebio Brau.

This flurry of sensational hold-ups threw the authorities into a real panic and Catalonia’s Captain-General Miguel Primo de Rivera drafted in troops and Sometent personnel to patrol Barcelona around the clock.

Los Solidarios members like Alfons Miquel Martorell, Joan García i Oliver. Buenaventura Durruti and Alejandro Ascaso also took part in these hold-ups and were identified by witnesses from snapshots. There is every likelihood that other members also were implicated, as were activists recruited by Los Solidarios, like Joan Torralba, Joan Cusí and Joan Tarragó, among others.

It was plain that Los Solidarios was the leading group when it came to carrying out spectacular hold-ups with great professionalism ad that usually they netted huge sums and, unlike the majority of the Barcelona action groups, gunfire was usually averted.

One example was the hold-up carried out by a different action group a few days later on 29 August 1923 at the Salicachs flour mill in Barcelona’s Calle Girona; it led to a shoot-out with the Sometent and the police in the city centre streets of Barcelona and ended in the death of the company cashier Pere Vilalta and with 8 uninvolved passersby with gunshot wounds (4 men, a woman, a 16 year old boy, an 8 year old boy and a 10 year old girl). And in the wake of the shoot-out the anarcho-syndicalists Amadeu Sanmartín i Suñé, Pere Oro i Ricart, Enric Albareda i Miró, Manuel González Serrano and Joan Pons i Dilmer found themselves under arrest.

Joan Pons i Dilmer had been a member of the Boadas group that had been involved in the attempt on the life of Pere Mártir Homs and which had led to the death of a police officer from the latter’s bodyguard, leaving Pere Boadas the only person involved who was not in custody. He was at that point the ‘most wanted’ man as far as the authorities were concerned, and he had to step up his precautions in order to avoid arrest.

Then Los Solidarios planned an even bigger coup, the idea being to raise funds for revolution by raiding the Bank of Spain branch in Gijón which held an astronomical amount of cash.

On 1 September 1923, a sizable team from Los Solidarios – made up of Durruti, Aurelio Fernández, Gregorio Suberviola, Gregorio Martinez aka ‘el Toto’, Eusebi Brau, Rafael Torres Escartín, Miguel García Vivancos and Adolfo Ballano – travelled up to Asturias from Barcelona and held up the Gijón branch of the Bank of Spain, netting the fabulous sum of 600,000 pesetas, a record at that time. However, the raid triggered a gun-battle in which the bank manager lost his life. Within days Eusebi Brau and Mestres had been tracked down to Oviedo and killed after a shoot-out with the Civil Guard, whilst Rafael Torres Escartín was arrested. The others escaped with the proceeds.

Given its spectacular style and enormous proceeds, that bank robbery produced something of a sensation among the public and the more radical anarchist militants alike; along with the raids over recent months, they were starting to become synonymous with Los Solidarios.

Los Solidarios had been founded in Barcelona just a year earlier and, as a group, had played no part during the years prior to the outbreak of pistolerismo in Barcelona, nor in trade union activities which had been the concern of the members of the Catalan chapter with its longer established groups, nor had they – as a group – been involved in the social warfare in Barcelona over the past 5 months, having carried out a few hold-ups and two deadly attacks outside of Catalonia but already they were spearheading the radical anarchist movement in Catalonia and across Spain.

This was so because Los Solidarios were clear that their purpose was not simply to fight for trade union demands, nor mount operations merely to confront gunmen but to promote anarchist revolution by means of fund-raising raids to finance arms-purchasing and logistics on a grand scale, as in the case of the two deadly attacks mounted against Lieutenant Colonel González Regueral and Cardinal Soldevila which had an impact right around the country, as well as by means of meetings with lots of action groups with an eye to organising them for revolution rather than just for ad hoc retaliatory operations. In this way they were about to become a mighty, touchstone anarchist group offering an alternative to the official CNT leadership in Catalonia.

By contrast, for some months past, the official CNT leadership in Catalonia had, under the leadership of Peiró had been arranging working relationships with left-wing parties and Catalanist socialists like the PRC, Estat Català and the Socialist Union of Catalonia (USC), a Catalanist breakaway from the PSOE, a joint so-called ‘Civic Committee Against Worker Repression’ had been launched, not by way of amalgamating with them, in that the leadership stuck by anarcho-syndicalism, but it espoused a less anti-political labour strategy than the radical anarchists.

This was the situation in which the various trends within Catalan society in the 1930s came to light. The CNT already embraced three schools of thought: the non-anti-political anarcho-syndicalist line of Joan Peiró, which had contacts with leftist Catalanist movements, the radical anarchist line headed by Joan García Oliver and Durruti, and the Marxist trend led by Joaquim Maurín.

But the growth of all these political trends in Catalonia was to be interrupted and stalled until the 1930s, when, with the social war and attacks at their height in the Barcelona region,  General Primo de Rivera mounted a coup d’état from Barcelona held that he was out to eradicate both pugnacious anarchism and separatism. Many labour and leftist militants felt that they were under threat now and went into exile.

The Los Solidarios members Buenaventura Durruti, Gregorio Jover, Francisco Ascaso, Alejandro Ascaso, Alfons Miquel Martorell and Miguel García Vivancos, targeted by the police in connection with the Gijón hold-up and other raids, moved away to France and settled in Paris.

In the wake of the coup d’état, constitutional guarantees were suspended and there was a drastic curtailment of trade union activity. Indiscriminate arrests were made and the bulk of the action groups disappeared, albeit not entirely.

On 18 September 1923, just five days after the coup d’état, a group led by the anarcho-syndicalist action groups veteran Josep Saleta i Pla aka ‘el Nano de Sants’ dared to hold up the Terrassa Savings Bank in Terrassa in concert with other activist anarchists, to raise funds to carry on with the struggle in accordance with the same strategy as Los Solidarios. The whole thing ended in a gunfight at the door of the Savings Bank, in which Sometent member Joan Casella was killed. The police then arrested Josep Saleta and the Basque anarchist Jesús Pascual Aguirre, a recent arrival in Barcelona and newly expelled from France. Both were to be executed by garrote vil just five days later  following a rushed trial on 23 September 1923.

This was evidence that jury members were no longer inclined to hesitate and now everything moved along brisk military lines. It was a warning to all.

BOADAS ARRESTED IN 1924

In spite of the execution of Saleta and Pascual and the massive exodus of activists, there was still a small corps of armed activists operational in Barcelona. Pere Boadas was one of them: he was storing bombs and weapons in premises in Barcelona by way of stocking up for a revolutionary clash, in accordance with the strategy of the CNT’s radical anarchist wing and Los Solidarios, he being by then, to all intents and purposes, a member of Los Solidarios.

The police finally arrested Pere Boadas on 25 February 1924 in Barcelona, linking him with an explosives dump in which they found upwards of 200 bombs. He was to be charged with sedition and hauled before a court martial.

In March1924 some Los Solidarios members were surprised by police at a meeting in Barcelona and gunfire erupted, resulting in the deaths if Gregorio Suberviola and Marcelino del Campo. Fellow Solidarios Ceferino Fernández, Aurelio Fernández, Domingo Ascaso and Adolfo Ballano shot their way free, wounding some of the policemen. Gregorio Jover was to be arrested, only to escape after a short while by jumping from the window at the police station.

In early 1924 also, Medir Martí i Augé had been arrested: ever since he had been released in April 1919 following trial for the attacks mounted by that very first action group, ‘Els Sense Nom’, back in late 1917, (Pere Boadas was also a member of that group), he was one of the few leaders of armed anarcho-syndicalist gangs not to have been arrested during the interval, during the years when he had taken part in and orchestrated a huge number of attacks. Not until 1931 and the advent of the Republic would he see freedom again.24 September 1924 saw the opening of the trial for the killing of police officer José Fernández Alegría in the attack mounted the previous year by Boadas’s group targeting Pere Mártir Homs. Murder charges were brought against Josep Espuñes and Joaquin Blanco aka ‘El Valladolid’ and they were produced in court. The finger was also pointing as Pere Boadas and Joaquim Pons for their part in the attack, according to witness evidence but they were not produced in court as they had yet to be arrested. Both Josep Espuñes and Joaquin Blanco were sentenced to life terms.

But there was an odd mistake made by the courts here, one hard to account for. Pere Boadas had been picked up in February 1924, charged with storing 200 bombs and had been made amenable to a military judge on a sedition charge. The fact that there were two charge sheets against Boades ensured that the judge in this case must not have known that Pere Boadas had been arrested, for there is no record of his being indicted for this offence, although he was for the other offence. Joaquim Pons had also been arrested but this had not become known due to the curious fact that he had changed his name for that of another prisoner who had been released.

So, ultimately, on 1 October 1924 it came to light that they were both prisoners and prisoners Pere Boadas and Joquim Pons were then tried in connection with the attack on Homs and the death of Homs’s bodyguard. It remains hard to account for the fact that their being in custody had not come to light when Josep Espuñes and Joaquim Blanco were brought for trial, a matter taken up by the press.

The trial of Pere Boadas and Joaquim Pons was to be a long one with several hearings held between 1925 and 1927, because, whereas the police serving in Homs’s escort at the time of the attack claimed to have recognized them, the fact that neither Espunes nor Blanco had given them up and that their lawyers raised evidence from the friends and relations of the two accused, claiming that the pair were elsewhere, in different cities at the time of the attack left the judge loath to bring in a verdict.

Finally, on 8 June 1927, just as a lot of so-called ‘preventive detention prisoners’ (presos gubernativos) were about to be set loose, having been held on suspicion for two years as suspects but against whom  there was no evidence, Pere Boadas too was to be freed, since the judge had still not come up with conclusive evidence of his guilt. Joaquim Pons was to stay in prison, as he was given a stiff term for the raid on the Salisachs pharmacy in August 1921 in which a life had been taken. S too would Espuñes and Blanco, who had received life sentences.

But whilst Pere Boadas had been released, he was not allowed to leave the country, so that the judge might carry on with his enquiries into the attempt to kill Homs and the 200 bombs found in Boadas’s possession. Furthermore, the dictatorship authorities indicated that they meant to reopen the case of the attack on the employer Josep Albert Barret in January 1918, citing the fact that only thanks to threats to witnesses and jury members that the accused were acquitted. On the basis that he expected to be rearrested Boadas made up his mind to get out of the country, leaving his wife and daughters (aged 8 and 10) behind in Barcelona.

PERE BOADAS IN TOUCH WITH LOS SOLIDARIOS IN 1927

While Pere Boadas had been in prison, Los Solidarios members Buenaventura Durruti, Francisco Ascaso, Gregorio Jover, Alejandro Ascaso and Gregorio Martínez aka El Toto had spent two years in Latin America carrying out hold-ups to raise money for the anarchist cause. First they raided a bank in Mexico and then another one in Cuba, with Gregorio Martinez being arrested and serving years in a prison there. After that, the remaining activists headed for Chile where they were to carry out another hold-up before moving on to Argentina in 1925.

In Argentina these four Solidarios, led by Durruti, made contact with the local anarchist Miguel Arcángel Roscigno, a leading Buenos Aires-born anarchist, the son of Italian immigrants, and with the Argentinean anarchist Andrés Vázquez Paredes. Those six anarchists then held up an Argentinean bank, raking in  huge haul. On the assumption that by now they had enough and were wanted men, Durruti, Francisco Ascaso, Joaquín Ascaso and Gregorio Jover headed back to Paris in 1926.

As mentioned above, Pere Boadas made for Paris in 1927, fleeing from the Spanish courts and there he ran into the Solidarios  Durruti, Francisco Ascaso and Gregorio Jover, back from a few months carrying out hold-ups in Latin America, had spent a few months in prison in Paris after they were suspected of laying the groundwork for an attack on King Alfonso XIII during his visit to Paris in 1926.

On the other hand, the Solidarios  Joan García Oliver and Aurelio Fernández had been arrested in 1926 after crossing the border into Navarra with the intention of assassinating Primo de Rivera, and they were behind bars at this point.

Meanwhile, in France there was another anarchist group that was linked with Los Solidarios and carried out hold-ups; it was led by Ramón Recasens i Miret who had fled Barcelona after being wounded in the celebrated raid  in Barcelona on the  MZA payroll train in September 1922, a raid that ended with three dead. In the wake of the hold-up Ramón Recasens had slipped out to France in 1922 along with Carles Anglès, one of the original 1917 ‘Sense Nom’ line-up, as mentioned previously. After that, though, Carles Anglès’s trail runs cold and we do not know what he got up to after that.

On 14 January 1926, however, Ramón Recasens and the anarcho-syndicalist Benito De Castro were executed in Bordeaux after they were sentenced to death for a hold-up carried out in that French city in July the previous year, one in which 2 lives were lost in a shoot-out. Another anarcho-syndicalist who was along with them, Isidre Casals, was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fellow by the name of Joaquín Aznar managed to get away after the robbery. So that particular action group carrying “expropriations” to fund the anarchist groups in exile had been dismantled.

1927 saw the clandestine launch in Valencia of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), driven, from exile, by a number of leaders of the most radical anarchist factions within the CNT. The FAI would draw its inspiration primarily from the group initially led by Durruti and Joan García Oliver: Los Solidarios, since they meant to have a pure anarchist hand on the tiller of the CNT, given the different tendencies within the anarcho-syndicalist union since thousands of former CNT personnel were being siphoned off y Marxism, Catalanist republicanism, left-wing pro-independent factions, or following the more moderate line espoused by Salvador Seguí and now spearheaded by Joan Peiró.

In 1928 Durruti arranged with Pere Boadas that Boadas would go to Uruguay, where there were another two Catalan anarchists, Los Solidarios collaborators, already working in concert with the Argentinean anarchist Miguel Arcángel Roscigno, to keep the hold-ups going and raise further funds for the revolution. There was no way for Durruti’s group to return to Latin America since they were on the wanted list already. They also agreed that Boadas would try to persuade Roscigno to come to Europe and, when the time was right, to Spain since they regarded him as key to the anarchist revolution they had in mind, a revolution of which the newly launched FAI was the seed-bed.

 

 

 

 

Over in Argentina, Miguel Arcángel Roscigno, the Argentinean anarchist, the man who had been in on the Buenos Aires hold-up alongside Los Solidarios back in 1926, had been carrying on mounting hold-ups in Argentina alongside Andrés Vázquez and the Argentinean brothers Vicente and Antonio Moretti. Following a big raid on the Rawson Hospital in Buenos Aires that netted 141,000 pesos and in the course of which they killed a police officer who tried to resist the robbery, they withdrew to Uruguay and were now ‘most wanted’ in both countries.

BOADAS SHOWS UP IN URUGUAY

So Pere Boadas set sail for Montevideo to make contact with Miguel Arcángel Roscigno and the other two Catalan anarchists already there; Pere Boadas knew them by sight from the earlier years in Barcelona – as he himself was to say – albeit that he and they had never been in the same group together.

Pere Boadas arrived in the port of Montevideo but there was no one there to meet him. He therefore headed for the Uruguayan Regional Workers’ Federation (FORU) where he had been told they could put him in touch with the two Catalans.

But while he was trying to find them, Pere Boadas took a stroll through Montevideo’s Plaza de la Independencia and spotted the premises of the Cambio Messina, a first-rate establishment with  a display of  various currency denominations and huge wads of peso and other currency notes such as dollars and pounds sterling, held together with rubber bands. Boadas was to state that from then on his mind was made up that this business was to be targeted.

In the end Pere Boadas did make contact with members of the FORU and they put him in touch with the two Catalan anarchists who were waiting for him. They went by the names Agustín García Capdevila and Jaime Tadeo Peña. But those were just the phoney names they were using in Uruguay. In reality, this Agustín García Capdevila was Agustí Casanova i Garcia and Jaime Tadeo Peña was Jaume Navarro i Pérez. Boadas arranged to meet them in the apartment Casanova and Navarro were sharing.

URUGUAY’S COLORADO PARTY TRIES TO RECRUIT BOADAS

During the roughly two weeks it took to make contact with Roscigno, Pere Boadas dropped in at the editorial offices of the newspaper El Día, the mouthpiece of the Colorado Party, just to visit and to seek assistance from Rodrigo Soriano Barroeta in obtaining a residence permit; Soriano was an exiled Basque republican politician already known to Boadas and Boadas was aware that he was working at the newspaper.

But as it happened Rodrigo Soriano was absent that day and the person Boadas found at the El Día editorial offices was César Batlle Pacheco, the newspaper’s managing editor. César Batlle Pacheco was the son of José Batlle Ordoñez who had been president of Uruguay some time before, during 1903-1907 and again in 1911-1915 and who was still alive and who cast a shadow over an entire era of politics – known within Uruguay’s Colorado Party as batllismo, the party’s most forward-looking, most left-wing faction.

César Batlle came from one of the most important political families Uruguay had ever had and aside from his father, José Batlle, who had served as president up until 1915 as mentioned earlier, his grandfather Lorenzo Batlle i Grau, the son of Catalan immigrants from Sitges, had also been president from 1868 to 1872, having consolidated the Colorado Party in the wake of a number of civil wars.

As Boadas was to tell it in an interview given after 1971 to the Uruguayan magazine Marcha, César Batlle, aware that Boadas was an important Catalan anarchist (albeit that he was not completely conversant with his past), on learning that he had been a bricklayer in Barcelona offered him work with the Public Works Ministry, a rent-free apartment and his keep if he would carry out tasks for the ministry, the intention being to turn him into a civil servant and recruit him to the progressive wing of the Colorado Party. But Boadas, as he explained in the interview, told César Batlle that he could not accept his offer since he had not come to Uruguay to set up a Colorado Party club but for quite other purposes and that he had come to the El Día offices looking for Rodrigo Soriano.

So Cesar Batlle told Boadas that he had an appointment with Rodrigo Soriano for supper on the Saturday and he invited Boadas along so that they might continue with their conversation. Boadas told him that he would go, if he could have an assurance that he would have a Uruguayan residence permit for at least 5 years. César Batlle told him that he would grant him the permit and Pere Boadas agreed to go to supper with César Batlle and Rodrigo Soriano.

BOADAS IN TOUCH WITH ROSCIGNO

One or two days before that supper date with Batlle and Rodrigo Soriano, Pere Boadas finally made contact with Miguel Arcángel Roscigno and the brothers Antonio and Vincente Moretti, Argentinean anarchists wo had operated alongside Durruti and his gang in Argentina in 1925-1926; they had secretly relocated to Uruguay. At that point Boadas – again according to the interview with Marcha cited above – explained that, having now made contact with Roscigno, he decided not to keep that supper date with César Batlle and Rodrigo Soriano.

Boadas said that it occurred to him that going for supper with Rodrigo Soriano and the offer of ministry work that César Batlle had put to him made no sense as he and his comrades intended to promote expropriator anarchism and this flew in the face of the institutional career paths offered him by a moderate left-wing politician.

Pere Boadas next tried to persuade Roscigno that he should leave South America and head for Europe, as he had agreed with Durruti, since his cover was blown in South America and in Europe he would enjoy greater freedom of movement, in addition to which Durruti was waiting for him as someone with whom they could get on with their preparations for the revolution. Boadas also told him that, in contrast, he had to stay in Montevideo by way of a sort of stand-in for Roscigno, since his own cover was blown in France and Europe and there was no way for him to return to Spain, whereas in Montevideo he would enjoy greater freedom of movement. Roscigno told him that he was committed to the anarchist movement in Uruguay and Argentina and had no intention of moving anywhere else.

Then Roscigna told Boadas that he could lend them a helping hand with an underground counterfeiting workshop they had set up to fund the anarchist movement. Boadas was not enamoured to that ‘line of work’ and he said that what the needed was to pull off a big job. At which Boadas put it to him that they should raid the Cambio Messina premises he had sighted on the day of his arrival in Montevideo, the one that had made such an impression on him with its display of such masses of paper pesos and currency.

The Cambio Messina was a bureau de change and its premises on the Plaza de la Independencia were regarded as a temple to Uruguay’s wealth. The owner was Carmelo Gorga, who was of Italian extraction, one of the richest men in Uruguay and one that liked to show off his wealth. The police had warned him o time back that putting money on display in the window like that might prompt someone to try to rob him, as indeed was the case with Pere Boadas when he happened by on his very first day in Montevideo.

Boadas had already sold the idea to the other two Catalan anarchists – Agustí Casanova i García (using the alias Agustín García Capdevila) and Jaume Navarro i Pérez (otherwise known as Jaime Tadeo Peña).

Roscigno told Boadas that, unlike him, he knew the lay-out of Montevideo well and that in such an instance the owner as well as the employees of the Cambio Messina would not stand for a robbery and would resist. He also told him that the Plaza de la Independencia was a very busy location and, if a shot-out erupted, the outcome could be a bloodbath.

Instead, Roscigno suggested to Boadas that rather than targeting the Cambio Messina they should grab the police payroll since, he claimed, most police officers had little idea of how to shoot and, if the shooting did start, they would at least be is a location where the dead would either be themselves of the police but not passersby.

The Catalan anarchists Boadas, Capdevila and Navarro paid no attention to what Roscigno said and reckoned that  with a gun trained on him anybody would play ball, so they decided to rob the Cambio Messina where there were rich pickings. Roscigno declined to have any part in it, but Pere Boadas talked Antonio and Vincente Moretti (from Roscigno’s gang) into stringing along.

THE CAMBIO MESSINA HOLD-UP

25 October 1928 brought a raid on the Cambio Messina (Messina bureau d’echange); it went as follows, as described years later by Pere Boadas in an interview with the magazine Marcha and by a number of eye-witnesses.

At 2.30 p.m. Pere Boadas, Vicente Moretti and the latter’s younger brother Antonio Moretti arrived in Montevideo’s Plaza de la Independencia by taxi. The taxi driver was entirely ignorant of the hold-up but was told to wait for them in the square and that they would be back shortly. They intended to use the same taxi in their getaway. Pere Boadas and Antonio Moretti got out of the taxi whilst Vicente Moretti stayed inside to wait for their return. Agustí Casanova and Jaume Navarro were posted in the square, waiting for them.

They were just approaching the bureau d’échange when one of the employees there, Alonso Magnani, stepped outside to lower the sun-shade to ward off the sun’s rays, as ordered by the owner of the business, Carmelo Gorga. Boadas then paused and told his comrades to wait until the employee had gone back inside, but Antonio Moretti said, “If they don’t play ball, drill them”; he refused to wait and headed straight for Magnani, pointed his gun at him and told him to freeze and held him at gunpoint.

Whereupon Boadas, Casanova and Navarro stepped up to the door, there being nothing else for it, and Boadas  cursed Antonio Moretti, telling him that the whole square was watching “the show” and that they should all get inside, as they should have done right from the outset without arousing suspicion. But by that point many of the people on the street had spotted the incident and an armed assailant.

So Jaume Navarro and Agustí Casanova stepped briskly forward and entered the premises of Cambio Messina, shouting “Hands up!” The owner, Carmelo Gorga, initially played along but when Jaume Navarro jumped the counter to grab the money, Carmelo Gorga reacted and jumped him. At that point Pere Boadas was still arguing with Antonio Moretti who was still outside with his gun trained on Magnani, in full view of a lot of rubber-neckers. By the time Boada got inside it was to be greeted by the spectacle of the owner Carmelo Gorga wrestling with Jaume Navarro.

Then Jaume Navarro brought the butt of his pistol down on the head of businessman Carmelo Gorga, at which the pistol went off, a bullet hitting the ceiling. Outside on the square, following the report of the gunshot, more and more rubber-neckers were gathering.

Just then, out from behind a door came Victor Dadeo, a shoeshine boy from the square, whom Carmelo Gorga had been allowing to sleep on the Cambio Messina premises. Victor Dadeo took Navarro to task for his behaviour and asked him why he was manhandling a poor old man. Even as the raiders were distracted into arguing with Dadeo, Carmelo Gorga broke loose and tried to grab a pistol that he kept hidden. At which point Jaume Navarro and Agustí Casanova fired at him and Carmelo Gorga died as a result of two gunshot wounds, one to the head and the other in the back.

Before making his getaway Jaume Navarro grabbed a bundle of peso notes held together by an elastic band, whilst the shoeshine boy Dadeo started shrieking about the filthy deed, calling them murders and leaping the counter where Navarro got into a tussle with him. The elastic band from the bundle of bills snapped and the notes were scattered all over the shop. After which Jaume Navarro put two bullets into the shoeshine boy Dadeo, killing him as well.

Before they left they scooped up whatever notes and coins they could and rushed out of the Cambio Messina, brandishing their guns. Meanwhile, Antonio Moretti, who was still outside with his gun on the employee Magnani, who made a run for it. As all four of the raiders made a dash for their taxi, the square was filled with a huddle of people; a few of them got out of the way and called out that the police were on their way to arrest them. It just so happened that at that point the son of the just murdered Carmelo Gorga arrived at the Cambio Messina and heard the cries calling for the raiders to be stopped.

The four stressed raiders, seeing that, just as Roscigno had warned them was typical of Montevideo, they were facing a lot of resistance, fired shots to clear a path through the crowd in the square that was cursing them and wounded another three people. There was one armed policeman in the square but he did not dare lift a finger.

Then they made it to the taxi where Vicente Moretti and the driver had been waiting for them, telling the driver to get them out of there and step on it. Taxi driver Benito Hernández, terror-stricken at the sound of gunfire and by the sight of the four raiders brandishing guns, climbed out his cab, meaning the make a run for it.  At which point Pere Boadas who was, as he was later to say himself “all het up”, found the taxi driver in his path and, thinking that he intended to block or attack him, fired a number of shots, killing him. They all climbed into the taxi and took off as fast as they could, with Vicente Moretti at the wheel. The taxi driver’s death was the completely random product of the heat of the moment and Pere Boadas regretted it and felt remorseful for it for the remainder of his days, according to what he said.

BOADAS AND ROSCIGNO FALL OUT FOLLOWING THE RAID

The operation had been a disaster, leaving 3 people dead and 3 wounded, and the proceeds were meagre, at about 4,000 pesos. They had not had time to scoop up the large number of rolls of paper pesos and other currencies and had missed out on the £300 sterling in the safe.

As Boadas himself was to relate in that interview many years later in 1971 with the Uruguayan magazine Marcha, when he made contact with Roscigno in the wake of the disastrous and bloody raid, Roscigno reminded him that he had warned them that the operation would prove a very tricky one. Involved in that conversation was a Romanian anarchist who had fled to Uruguay after planting a number of bombs in Romania and he asked: “But what happened?” To which Roscigno answered: “Nothing, just some Catalans cocking things up.”

This pissed Boadas off and, he claimed, he responded: “No, the cock-up was yours, I told him. Why didn’t you tell me the whole truth? You forgot to tell me that the Moretti brothers had never handled a gun before, whereas we believed they had. You used them as drivers and nothing more.”

The fact is that although it may well have been that the Moretti brothers had only ever ben drivers on previous raids and had no experience in handling guns in a robbery – which is somewhat confirmed by the fact that Antonio Moretti had stayed outside the Cambio Messina with his gun trained on a staff member, in plain view of everybody - it was equally true that Roscigno had cautioned against mounting such an operation in that location, as they was every indication that things would turn out badly. As they did.

Afterwards, Boadas repeatedly acknowledged his mistake and that Roscigno had been right, but he always held the Moretti brothers partly to blame and had a bit of a grudge against Roscigno that he had not told him that the Morettis had only been along on earlier hold-ups as drivers and this created some friction with Roscigno and other Uruguayan anarchists. But nothing worse came of it and they remained good comrades.

THE RAIDERS ESCAPE, ARE TRACKED DOWN AND ARRESTED

The bloodbath generated by the Plaza de la Independencia raid in Montevideo was to have a powerful impact on Uruguayan society, for the city could not recall any such violence. Ever since the war in 1904, the country had been booming economically and that generation had enjoyed comparative peace. The call went up from certain newspapers and other associations for the death penalty to be revived and the government’s number one priority was to catch the raiders and it was to post a huge reward for information that might lead to their arrest.

A lot of historians and commentators on Uruguay have described the gory raid on the Cambio Messina as signalling the start of a for crackdown on anarchism in Uruguay, which in tur drew a response from the anarchists and which was to mark the beginning of a period of pistolerismo in Montevideo and across Uruguay as a whole between 1928 and 1937. Furthermore, many attribute the blame for this largely to the cavalier approach of the Catalan anarchists who mounted the raid, positing that the explanation might be that they came from a backdrop of pistolerismo in Barcelona and had grown used to gun-play at the drop of a hat.

Well, Pere Boadas and the group he led were to be held to blame for introducing pistolerismo to Barcelona in late 1917 and now here they were, Pere Boadas was being blamed for ushering in the era of pistolerismo in Montevideo in 1928.

But whereas the bloody gunplay by Boadas’s gang in the Cambio Messina raid in Montevideo in 1928 was to be the most sensational incident and has gone down as the one that signalled the beginning of the pistolero era in Montevideo, aside from anarchists’ operations against the repression,  it was in part a by-product of the tensions inside the Colorado Party between left-wingers and more conservative elements, and frictions with supporters of the Nationalist Party also triggered, from 1928 to 1937, an era of mutual attacks and the odd coup d’état, which likewise helped fuel violence and outrages in Uruguay.  The gun-play by Boadas’s gang in the Cambio Messina raid in 1928, however, actually did usher in Uruguay’s era of the pistolero.

At the time, though, nobody knew the identities of the raiders and everybody suspected Miguel Arcángel Roscigno’s gang since he was the most renowned and sought after  “expropriator” in Argentina and in Uruguay alike and it was not yet known if the three Catalan anarchists were members of his group. The reckoning that Roscigno’s gang had been involved was not completely wide of the mark, but Roscigno was known as a ‘player’ and it was known that he was initially to have been the leader of the gang, but in the end he had refused to take part in the raid as stated earlier.

The Uruguayan government placed Sub-Inspector Luis Pardeiro in charge of the investigation to track down the raiders. Pardeiro centred his enquiries on tracking down Roscigno and was particularly obsessed with catching him. Besides, Pardeiro took it personally that Carmelo Gorga, the owner of the Cambio Messina, killed in the course of the  raid, had been a great friend of his.

In the end, a few days after the raid somebody who know one of the raiders- possibly a pseudo-anarchist keen to get his hands on the reward or possibly as the result of Pardeiro’s “plants” – came forward to tell the police that the Cambio Messina raiders were hiding out in a house at 41 Calle Rousseau in the Villa Unión district near Montevideo.

The informant was spot on and the three Catalan anarchists and the two Moretti brothers were at that address in the Calle Rousseau; indeed, the Morettis had their families with them there.

On 9 November 1929 some 300 police – policemen and members of the Republican Guard – surrounded the house and called upon them to give themselves up. The three Catalan anarchists and Vicente Moretti did just that, but Antonio Moretti committed suicide by putting a bullet into his own head, but not before torching the money stolen lest it fall into police hands.

The arrests of the raiders was widely celebrated to the great delight of Sub-Inspector Pardeiro and the police generally, as well as by the government and the establishment press. But Roscigno, the most wanted man, regar4ded as the leader of the gang was not among the arrested men and we can assume that this was frustrating for the,

It was only at this point that the involvement of the three Catalan anarchists – Pere Boadas i Rivas, Jaume Navarro i Pérez (still going by the name of Jaime Tadeo Peña) and Agustí Casanova i Garcia (known as Agustín Garcia Capdevila) came to light. The involvement of the Moretti brothers came as no surprise to them as they were still viewed as members of Roscigno’s gang.

In the wake of the arrests Roscigno slipped back home to Argentina and in Buenos Aires was to link up with Severino Di Giovanni, orchestrating a number of robberies or, as the described them, ‘expropriations’, like the on the payroll of a sanitation site. Roscigno was ‘most wanted’ in Agentina as well as in Uruguay and nobody knew where he was. Roscigno had some family in Buenos Aires and some in Montevideo and they helped him and ensured that he was able to survive underground.

Pere Boadas and his group had been caught following the very first hold-up they mounted in Uruguay to help the social struggle, in the wake of the bloody and disastrous raid on the Cambio Messina. They were not going to be able to follow in the Latin America footsteps  of Los Solidarios Durruti, the Ascaso brothers and Gregorio Jover before them; the latter had carried out armed robberies in several Latin American countries, with great success and netted huge sums, apart from the misfortune of Gregorio Martinez ‘El Toto’ being caught in Cuba in 1925. Maybe it was down to bad luck or poor choice of companions and activists but plainly Durruti’s team had been a gang of social hold-up men that boasted greater experience, professionalism and effectiveness than Boadas’s gang, as Boadas admitted in self-criticism some time afterwards. Maybe Boadas was that much more impetuous and less deliberate in those days, which was the reason why he was captured.

BREAK-OUT FROM PUNTA CARRETAS PRISON

Roscigno and the activist anarchists of Argentina and Uruguay were to demonstrate a great sense of sacrifice and solidarity with their comrades in the struggle in 1931 when Roscigno came up with a plan to break the three Catalan anarchists arrested for the Cambio Messina raid alongside Vicente Moretti out of Punta Carretas prison in Montevideo.

In May 1930 an Italian anarchist who had moved to Argentina and went by the name of Gino Gatti (albeit that his real name was Giuseppe Baldi) moved to Montevideo and began living just opposite Punta Carretas prison with his family and opened the ‘Buen Trato’ (Good Deal) coal-yard from where he sold coal, timber and gravel, earning the trust of the locals. It wa all part of a plan devise by him and Roscigno to dig a tunnel and bust their imprisoned anarchist comrades out of prison. Miguel Arcángel Roscigno, who had returned to Montevideo, made a number of surreptitious visits to Gatti to check out the lie of the land and perfect the plan.

Within months they were digging a tunnel over 50 metres in length, stretching from the coal-yard, across the street and under the walls of Punta Carretas prison. Andrés Vázquez Paredes, an old confederate of Roscigno’s with whom he had carried out hold-ups in Buenos Aires between 1926 and 1927 was also to help excavate the tunnel and monitor the movements of the guards. The Argentinean anarchist Enrique Malvicini, expert tunnel-digger and the Spanish anarchist José Manuel Paz, handling the wiring that provided the lighting in the tunnel, were also in on the operation.

The tunnel was constructed with some precision in terms of its being utterly straight and its surfacing in the toilets in the prison: surprisingly, it turned out to be a great feat of engineering. Relatives of Moretti’s acted as go-betweens, keeping them briefed and arranging the date and place of the break-out.

On 18 March 1931 the escape via the tunnel was resounding success. Pere Boadas, Agustí Casanova, Jaume Navarro and Vicente Moretti, the 4 men from the Cambio Messina raid, broke out, as did another three anarchist inmates; although not ‘in the know’, the latter seized their chance and used the tunnel dreamt up by Roscigno and Gatti to break out that day.

The three additional prisoners who broke out were Rafael Egües, Medardo Rivero Camoirano and Carlos Cuneo Funes, three anarchists from the anarchist-inclined Uruguayan bakers’ union: in January 1927 they had attacked a bakery with the workers of which they had had trade union differences. The whole thing ended up with them trading knifings and punches, resulting in the death of two of their rivals. They became known as “the anarchist bakers”.

Once outside the prison, they all fled in three waiting vehicles. A scribbled note was left behind in the coal-yard: it read “The solidarity between anarchists is not just a word scribbled on paper”. Great play was made of this in the press.

Gino Gatti (aka Giuseppe Baldi) and his family had moved on a few days earlier and left their home and coal-yard after farewells to the neighbours who were greatly surprised that they were giving up the business when it was going so well. Gatti and his family made their way back to Buenos Aires.

Vicente Moretti went to ground in a Montevideo apartment where Roscigno was living together with the three comrades who had helped dig the tunnel – Enrique Malvicini, Andrés Vázquez and José Manuel Paz.

The three Catalan anarchists – Pere Boadas, Agustí Casanova and Jaume Navarro – plus the three Uruguayan anarchist “bakers” – Rafael Egüez, Medardo Rivero and Carlos Cuneo Funes – went to ground in a different apartment in Montevideo.

In 1971, some 40 years on, 100 members of the then famous ‘Tupamaros’ Uruguayan guerrilla group also broke out of Punta Carretas prison, using the very same tunnel as devised by Roscigno, through which Boadas and his comrades had escaped – a tunnel upon which they had stumbled whilst digging another. The 1971 break-out was to be the biggest and most famous prison break-out in history.

ROSCIGNO, VICENTE MORETTI AND COMRADES ARRESTED

On 27 March 1931, nine days after the break-out, sheer fluke and bad luck led to the arrests of Roscigno and his flat-mates. A city dog-catcher by the name of José Sosa who happened past the house where Roscigno had his apartment lost hold of a stray dog that he was trying to catch and the dog made straight for the yard of the house where Roscigno and the others were. The dog-catcher went to try and recover the stray and spotted Vicente Moretti sitting reading the newspaper and he recognized him. It turned out that José Sosa had been in jail for picking pockets and knew Moretti from there and so was able to recognize him. José Sosa, knowing that a reward had been posted, quickly gave up on the stray and made off to alert the police.

A short while after that, 53 police officers showed up at the house and arrested Vicente Moretti, Enrique Malvicini, Andrés Vázquez and José Manuel Paz along with some other anarchists and were greatly startled to discover and arrest Miguel Arcángel Roscigno, the most wanted anarchist expropriator of the preceding 6 years, in Uruguay as well as in Argentina.

Miguel Arcángel Roscigno took a slap from police Inspector Luis Pardeiro, the very man who had also arrested Boadas and the others in the wake of the Cambio Messina robbery two years earlier. That slap echoed through the ranks of the anarchists in Uruguay as a tremendous slight to Roscigno. A year later Inspector Pardeiro would be gunned down by some anarchists in retaliation for that slap.

Miguel Arcangel Roscigno spent six years in prison in Uruguay before being extradited to Argentina where he was to ‘go missing’ after passing through a police station; he was assuredly murdered. But his body was spirited away.

After Moretti and Roscigno were arrested, the Catalan anarchists Boadas, Casanova and Navarro, plus three Uruguayan anarchists – Egües, Rivero and Cuneo – escaped from Montevideo in a small boat and made their way to Argentina, arriving in Buenos Aires on 9 April 1931.

Shortly after arrival in Buenos Aires, the Catalans Agustí Casanova and Jaume Navarro managed to get passage on a ship and returned to Europe via Italy along with two Uruguayan anarchists, Rafael Egües and Medardo Rivero. They were never recaptured. They made their way back to Barcelona and we know that with the advent of the Republic in 1931 Casanova, Navarro and Egües joined the CNT-FAI and they fought in the 1936-1939 civil war in Catalonia and on the Aragon front with the anarchist militias. Casanova and Navarro managed to leave for exile when the war ended, whereas the Uruguayan Rafael Egües was held in a Francoist prison up until 1953.

Pere Boadas, on the other hand, decided to stay in Argentina along with the anarchist “baker” Carlos Cuneo Funes; they shared an apartment in Villa Ballester on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

At that point Argentina had a dictator in General José Félix Uriburu who had mounted his coup in 1930 since when the anarchists were being tracked down and shot, although they themselves mounted a few attacks on Argentina military personnel and other bigwigs in the dictator’s government.

There was a climate of conspiracy against the Uriburu dictatorship in Argentina, spearheaded by leftist movements, anarchists and members of the moderate, progressive party, the Radical Civic Union (UCR) led by Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear, a former Argentinean prime minister.

 At the time virtually everybody was plotting together against the dictatorship.

Years afterwards, in that interview with the magazine Marcha, Pere Boadas was to claim that between April and June 1931 he had taken part in  number of meetings with a range of Argentinean opposition figures of every persuasion, plotting against the dictatorship: those meetings were orchestrated by followers of the UCR leader, Alvear. Boadas stated that he was an anarchist and had had little in common with Alvear, although he was willing at the time to help overthrow the dictatorship at any rate.

As we have seen Boadas could have simply sailed off quietly to Europe with Casanovas and Navarro, but he was held in Argentina by his desire to help the anarchists and others fighting against the dictatorship in the River Plate area. It is also known that he had a hand in a plan to help 500 inmates escape from Buenos Aires prison. The fact that Roscigno was being held in prison in Uruguay after years as Argentina’s and Uruguay’s “most wanted”, held for having helped Boadas and his comrades escape from Punta Carretas prison in Uruguay also ensured that he refused to forget about them and stayed in the area to render what assistance he could.

Then, on 16 June 1931, Caros Cuneo Funes, the anarchist “baker” was arrested in Villa Luzuriaga in Argentina and extradited to Uruguay.

A few weeks later, on 11 July 1931, Pere Boadas was arrested in Villa Ballester on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and caught in possession of a pistol, something that was played up in the Argentinean and Uruguayan press. After Carlos Cuneo’s arrest, Boadas had finally made up his mind to quit Argentina and was due to leave the very day after he was arrested on a ship bound for Italy which would make a stop-over in Montevideo, so whether his plan was to head for Europe or return to Montevideo is unclear.

Years afterwards, Boadas was self-critical, saying that in those days he took very few precautions and put too much trust in everyone.

In February 1932, Pere Boadas made another attempt to escape from prison, but this time he was discovered and thwarted just before breaking out. The Argentinean authorities then decided that he was a pest and he was immediately extradited to Uruguay.

In Uruguay, Pere Boadas was convicted and sent to prison up until 1953. This time he was sent, not to Punta Carretas, from which he had previously escaped, but to Miguelete prison. He was to serve a total of 25 years behind bars, plus the months he had enjoyed on the loose after his first scape.

When Pere Boadas was eventually freed in 1953, his wife and two daughters, who he had left behind in Barcelona when he set off in 1927 travelled down to Montevideo to be reunited with him after 26 years. His wife, who suffered from a chronic illness that confined her to a wheelchair, stayed behind to live in Uruguay with him. This reunification with is family was, for Pere Boadas, one of the most emotive experiences he had  and from then on he devoted much of his time to looking after his wife.

In the 1950s, Pere Boadas settled in the El Cerro district of Montevideo with his wife and initially he sold newspapers on the streets. He also became a member of the El Cerro’s Ateneo Libertario and took part in union meetings and was in touch with lots of Spanish civil war exiles.

During his 25 years behind bars in Uruguay, Pere Boadas had missed out on the entire Republic in Spain and the 1936-1939 civil war in which his former ‘Los Solidarios’ comrades, not least Durruti and Joan García Oliver, had spearheaded an anarchist revolution during the early months of the war.

In his prison in Uruguay, Pere Boadas was a world away and his focus there was on becoming just another Uruguayan anarchist. Over the years Pere Boadas came by a job in the prison library and he spent years reading nearly all the books it held. It was there that be matured into a Uruguayan anarchist thinker and a reference point for many of the prisoners, whether fellow anarchists or ordinary inmates.

One of the things for which Pere Boadas was best known in Uruguay, aside from his action man past, was the fact that lots of ordinary inmates who previously had been just thieves and criminals, became politicized and switched to anarchism or workerism thanks to the guidance Pere Boadas offered them inside prison.

Fernando O’Neill was to be the most outstanding example of such ordinary inmates under Boadas’s sway. Fernando O’Neill was a thief and robber who was sent to prison in 1945 at the age of 22 as a common criminal charged with a murder that occurred in the course of a squabble between criminal gangs in Montevideo. O’Neill was imprisoned in Mercedes during his first year and in 1946 was moved to Miguelete prison, spending a year there at the same time as Pere Boadas, before O’Neill was transferred to the Punta Carretas prison in 1947.

In a variety of writings and books, which he went on to write, O’Neill explained that when he went into prison he was unaware that he was living in a world of victims of exploitation and how to stealing and brawling with other gangs was the only way of life he knew. When he met Boadas he started devouring anarchist and workerist books and that opened his eyes to the roots of his predicament. O’Neill says that he then woke up to the fact that the bourgeois social order was what planted the seeds of deep-seated anti-social and aggressive behavior. 

O’Neill also stated in an interview he gave for the Uruguayan documentary “Los Anarquistas en el Rio de la Plata” (River Plate Anarchists) that he was told by Pere Boadas in prison that his only regret was the killing of the taxi driver in the Cambio Messina hold-up in Montevideo, something he regarded as a serious failing on his own part; that and not the other attacks he had carried out and deaths he had caused, for which he accepted responsibility. O’Neill described Boadas as a cold, hard nut.

Fernando O’Neill got out of prison in 1952 and his writings about prison, Pere Boadas and the history of the activist anarchist workers’ movement in Uruguay were to meet with great success, selling in huge quantities in Uruguay. Later, between 1967 and 1968, he took over the running of the Library of the International Anarchist Archive in Montevideo and became the chief historian of activist anarchism in Uruguay. ]

In the 1960s, with the recent (1959) Cuban Marxist revolution sliding towards

Cold War with the USA and US attempts to overthrow it, the anarchists of Uruguay split into those who gave Cuba their backing and those who held back from this on the grounds that the statist Marxism of the Cuban regime was also not the anarchists’ ideal. Fernando O’Neill stood for supporting Cuba in the face of the attempted aggression from the USA.

Pere Boadas also espoused that stance that Cuban had to be supported against the aggressions of the USA. The well known Uruguayan writer José Jorge Martinez, who was an anarchist himself back in the 1950s before later turning Marxist, states in his book Crónicas de una derrota (Chronicle of a Defeat) that he had seen Boadas and his long white beard on the odd demonstration in Montevideo in the 1960s, protesting against the USA’s attempts at aggression towards Cuba. For all that, and although Uruguay’s anarchists were divided over what stance to adopt with regard to solidarity with Cuba, Boadas remained a life-long anarchist up until he died in Montevideo in 1972.

Fernando O’Neill later went over to Marxism when he joined the Tupamaro guerrilla group, a Uruguayan guerrilla group that emerged in the late 1960s and in 1973 he left for exile in Chile and then Argentina before finally returning to Uruguay in 1986.

In the 1980s Fernando O’Neill wrote the [Spanish-language] book Activist Anarchists in Montevideo (1927-1937), in which he has a chapter headed “Catalan Activists in Uruguay”; it was to be the most comprehensive examination of the years when activist anarchism became very busy in Uruguay, coinciding precisely with the arrival there of Boadas and Roscigno. The book was to prove a great success and a standard reference in the history of anarchism in Uruguay. The book cannot be had here in Catalonia and I have not been able to read it, aside from a few references to it in a number of writings and the odd statement by O’Neill in some interview or documentary, so the book must surely hold much more information about Boadas and his conversations with O’Neill.

In 1984 there was a resurgence in the Uruguayan anarchist movement and that year saw the launch of an influential group calling itself the ‘Pedro Boadas Rivas Anarchist Agrupación”, plainly invoking the Catalan anarchist as its model.

A contemporary who also knew Pere Boadas is José Mugica who recently served as president of Uruguay from 2012 to 2014.

In Mario Mazzeo’s book, entitled Charlando con Mujica (Chatting with Mujica) (2002), José Mujica says that when he was 20 years old he met Pere Boadas in Montevideo during the 1950s, shortly after Boadas’s release from prison after serving 25 years. In the book, Mujica states that Boadas still stressed values and personal conduct and that the movement of which he was a representative was a model in terms of its ethos and values.

Later, during the turbulent and repressive 1960s in Uruguay, Mugica became one of the leaders of the Tupamaros guerrilla group, a leftwing and mostly Marxist faction. In the mid-1960s, Uruguay was being ruled by the right-wing Colorado Party which at that time was pursuing a very repressive police with regard to revolutionary movements. The prime minister of the day was Jorge Pacheco, a relation of the Batlle family, a family that had been politically influential in Uruguay since the 19th century. The Tupamaros emerged as a backlash against that policy of repression and they started mounting operations akin to those mounted by Roscigno’s and Boadas’s group back in 1928, something that had been practically unheard of in Uruguay since then.

Back in 1971 José Mugica was one of the 100 Tupamaros who broke out of Punta Carretas prison (the biggest escape in history), using the very same tunnel devised by Roscigno, the tunnel through which Boadas and his comrades had escaped back in 1931, a tunnel upon which the Tupamaros had stumbled whilst digging one of their own.

José Mugica says that he defines himself as a “conservative anarchist” ensconced within a Marxist movement. The Tupamaros earned great renown in the mid-1960s and early 1970s and enjoyed even greater prominence when Uruguay became a military dictatorshuip in 1973. After some great military operations, the Tupamaros group eventually was dismantled, the majority of its members having been killed or jailed. José Mugica was one of those arrested and he served 13 years in prison until 1985.

For an ex-guerrilla like Mugica who went on to serve as Uruguay’s president from 2012 to 2014 to have stated, albeit some years ago, that Pere Boadas was one of his reference points, the same Pere Boadas who back in 1917 had been a pioneer of the very earliest anarcho-syndicalist action groups in the days of the pistoleros in early 1920s Barcelona, a time that seems so far away, over and done with and dead and buried, remains an intriguing oddity.

This has been a brief look at the life of Pere Boadas i Rivas and of the political and social events attending it, no matter what was thought of him back in the days when he was a trigger-happy ‘action man’ anarchist and this articles is meant to shed a little light on the man who was to be a pioneer of the anarcho-syndicalist armed groups back in the days of pistolerismo in Barcelona in the 1920s and who ended up as a reference point for revolutionaries in Uruguay from the 1950s onwards. On the other hand, being very notorious in Uruguay he has been, like so many others, a virtual unknown in Catalonia and Spain, even within libertarian circles.

Josep A Carreras

Taken from his blog:

ja-cops.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/perre-boadas-el-pioner-dels-grups-daccio.html

(Very well illustrated blog)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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