“The Foreign Legion of the Revolution”: German Anarchosyndicalist and Volunteers in Anarchist Militias during the Spanish Civil War

By Dieter Nelles

Only after Ken Loach’s film “Land and Freedom“ the wide public heard about what had been deliberately ignored or forgotten for decades: The Spanish Civil War was not only a clash between democracy and fascism; also did it start a social revolution unprecedented for this century. With the Spanish Revolution also the foreign volunteers were forgotten that had not fought in the International Brigades but on the side of the anarchosyndicalist CNT-FAI and the POUM. These volunteers were losers of the Spanish Civil War in two respects. Not only did they lose the war but they were also inferior in the battle against the anti-revolutionary forces in the republican camp. In my essay, I examine the history of the about 250 Germans that were engaged on the side of the CNT-FAI as propagandists, journalists or as armed fighters in the militias. Only a minority of these 250 volunteers had joined anarchosyndicalist organizations in Germany. In the lee of the CNT-FAI the German anarchosyndicalists too enjoyed a “short summer of anarchy.“ For a short time the DAS [Gruppe Deutsche Anarcho-Syndikalisten in Ausland (Group of German anarchosyndicalists in exile)], which was founded in 1934 and had played a minor role till the Civil War, was the politically most influential German exile organization in Barcelona. Because of the repression of the Stalinist communists, the activities of the DAS came to an abrupt end in June 1937.

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