Saturday, May 21

‘The suitcase’, a book to recover the memory of anarcho-syndicalism and workers’ struggles

Eliseo is a worker son of migrants from the south of Spain, who moved with his family to Barcelona in the first third of the 20th century, first in the Chinatown and later in the working-class neighborhood of Poblenou. He is “an example of an anarcho-syndicalist who is made through the workers’ struggles in the factory.”

His is not a real story as such, it is a compendium of stories from different people that Josep Pimentel has merged to talk about anarcho-syndicalism and workers’ struggles.

Eliseo’s journey goes from the factory in Barcelona where he begins his workers’ struggle to the Aragón front, where he arrives as part of the Ortiz Column. “I did not want to wage war, I wanted to participate in building the revolution. I knew that for this it was necessary to crush fascism and that is why I decided to go to the Ortiz Column with the intention of participating in the agrarian communities”, Pimentel recounts in the book.

It also highlights collectivization, which was “very important” in Aragon, “especially in the areas that appear in the book. I have focused on Oliete, Hijar, Alacón or Albalate because they have been somewhat forgotten areas and I wanted to give them the importance they deserve”.

“His history, birth and family origin is inspired by Pedro García Martínez, who is a person who experienced events similar to those experienced by Eliseo. His personality and part of the story he explains is inspired by other people or situations in which Pedro did not participate, also in archival documents. He has something from my mother, who died of pancreatic cancer, a disease that Eliseo suffers from. And it also has a bit of many of the personal stories that I have known and read throughout my life, of those workers who fought for a better world and achieved it, even if it was only for a short period of their lives”, Pimentel explains. .

The objective of the book was to reconstruct the history of anarcho-syndicalism and workers’ struggles, all of this through various characters that characterize some of the figures or currents that made up the labor movement and to show the version of “the forgotten of history, give voice to those who had not had.

Pimentel highlights how expensive the recovery of historical memory in the field of anarcho-syndicalism is proving to be. “The republican part linked to political parties had been recovered, but the part linked to anarcho-syndicalism had been touched much less, taking into account that the CNT movement had been the most powerful labor movement in Europe.”

“We all have stories and many have been stored in old suitcases, which have been lost throughout history. Calling the book ‘The suitcase’ is a resource to talk about the lack of memory, the silence, that many people who lived through due to the repression and silence have caused those suitcases to have been silenced”, explains the author.

ordinary people

To do this, Pimentel focuses his studies on grassroots people, “who had not had the opportunity for their voice to be shared, that is another of the objectives, that ordinary people be the protagonists of history.”

Not only the story of Eliseo, Pimentel creates three characters that embody the main profiles of worker fighters of the time. Flora is of Aragonese origin, she is from a country family that settles in another neighborhood of Barcelona and her parents and her family have an ideological involvement through excursion groups or schools.

Also part of the story is Sebastián, a person of upper-middle class origin from the interior of Tarragona who, out of ideals, decides to give up his family’s privileges in order to support them.

Another figure appears, Karl, an international brigade member who comes to Spain to fight against fascism, embodies many of the fighters for freedom and against fascism, the romantic idealist who comes for ideas and who wants to participate in the revolution to stop fascism “It was a unique and unrepeatable generation of men and women. They were our brothers. They understood that a crucial battle was being waged against fascism in the peninsular quadrilateral and that it had to be fought”, says Pimentel.