THE ANARCHISTS OF CASAS VIEJAS by Jerome R. Mintz

THE ANARCHISTS OF CASAS VIEJAS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In early 1933, an anarchist uprising in the little Spanish town of Casas Viejas resulted in the shooting deaths of two civil guards and the subsequent massacre of twelve innocent townspeople, after an all-night battle in which one more guard and ten campesinos were killed. The events in Casas Viejas rocked the Spanish Republic, and later reports indicated that Francisco Franco made up his mind to rebel against the government when he heard of this example of its inability to maintain order. Indiana University anthropologist Mintz has turned to oral histories provided by survivors of the uprising to explain what happened at Casas Viejas, and also to correct the reports of others, particularly E. J. Hobsbawm's version in his influential Primitive Rebels. Mintz shows that the anarchists rose that day because they mistakenly thought an anarchist insurrection was underway throughout Spain, spearheaded by an uprising in Barcelona. In actuality, the revolt fizzled elsewhere; but the belief that it was on--and not a sudden outburst of smoldering anarchist millenarianism--led to the attack on the Casas Viejas guard barracks. The mostly illiterate anarchists, Mintz finds, had a strong sense of communal solidarity, an abhorence of egoismo (even, of eating a bigger portion of a collective meal than the next person), and a desire for land reform. It was the foot-dragging of the republic on the distribution of land that exacerbated relations between the campesinos and the government, and set the stage for the uprising. Mintz goes on to chronicle the precise events--including who was where when--and the confused investigations that followed; but he doesn't show us that the event had significance beyond its recognized historical importance. The collection of individual testaments grouped at the end indicate the trajectory of these campesinos' lives under the Civil War and Franco; but except as a way of getting the reader involved with the witnesses, the import of this documentation is not clear. Mintz's sole aim seems to be to refute Hobsbawm's ideas about anarchism--and those ideas have been under assault for a long time. As an episode in Spanish and anarchist history, the study is empirically illuminating (the first 100 pages are historical background); as a specific corrective, it certainly has value. But there is not the larger documentary reach of Ronald Fraser's Blood of Spain.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0253216583
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press