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The Great Swindle: 'This is not the tale of Salvador Puig Antich'

category iberia | history of anarchism | opinion / analysis author Thursday July 06, 2006 18:46author by KSL - Kate Sharpley Libraryauthor email info at katesharpleylibrary dot net Report this post to the editors

The Catalan anarchist Salvador Puig Antich, murdered by the Francoist regime on 2 March 1974, is to be the subject of a film 'Salvador' starring Daniel Brühl. This article from the forthcoming issue of KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library highlights the falsification and recuperation it's been accused of: 'This movie is manipulative and tinkers with the real history which was insulting and terrifying to all of us who, male and female, who fought and lived through those years.'

The Great Swindle: 'This is not the tale of Salvador Puig Antich'

The movie Salvador about the one-time member of the MIL or Thousand (1,000)*, Salvador Puig Antich, executed by garrotte on 2 March 1974 in the Model Prison in Barcelona will shortly be showing in cinemas around the country [Spain].

In these days when there is so much talk about the recovery of historical memory, we are faced here with a brazen manipulation of the very memory which they purport to want to resuscitate through the making and screening of the movie, to which there has been a strange build-up over recent years.

In fact a short while ago we got an appetiser on TV3 in the form of its first program about the Transition. It was dedicated to Salvador Puig Antich and to the MIL. Now comes the main course.

We could scarcely have expected any other outcome, given that the movie is based on a book written by TV3's current director, Francesc Escribano. Though certainly very well written, Cuento atrás [Countdown] is a perfect example of the art of manipulation and lying. This slick, commercial melodrama offers us no explanation of Salvador Puig Antich's actual battle, the reasons why he fought and perished, what he believed in, the process whereby he became radicalised politically and his commitment to the struggle alongside what was then the most radically anti-capitalist strand of the workers' movement. Or his close ties to that movement and its confrontation with the dirigiste [statist] and reformist approach of the PSUC-controlled Workers' Commissions. Not a word is said about the socio-political context that spawned the MIL and likewise its attempts at a revolutionary break with it or, of course, the complicity of the Catalan 'democratic' elements rallied around the 'Asamblea de Catalunya' and its great potential for mobilising the people. The PSUC systematically refused right up until that fateful night to lift a finger to mobilise the populace to save Salvador. They were on the brink of a pact with the Francoists. And thus had to be seen combating these anti-capitalist worker and popular factions whose struggle was geared towards a transformation of society.

Well, as I say, we could scarcely be surprised by the results of this movie. It is all neat and tidy so as to cover up or misrepresent facts that they have no intention of disclosing, facts bearing on the sham transition and the familiar tragic consequences then and now attendant upon this approach [accepting the myth of the 'democratic' transition] by the working class and people of which all are aware. Hardly surprising that they should cover their shame and try to gloss over their guilty consciences.

Mediapro is Europe's second largest audio-visual multinational: a factory churning out most TV products, ads, movies and the like: it wields great control over the media, revising and adapting recent history as suits the authorities and keeping mum about past and present struggles. Mediapro is well in with the 'democratic' institutions – the Generalitat and TV3 – and Manuel Huerga is a specialist in soap operas and the ideal choice for this revisionist and history-manufacturing project. It defies belief that this guy argues that one of the aims of his movie is to denounce the death penalty, when the death penalty was abolished in Spain back in 1978 and after Berlanga and the like produced superb films on the matter years back.

This is not the tale of Salvador Puig Antich
We are served up a slick, commercial soap opera – a rear tear-jerker of a movie. A laughable fictional melodrama, run-of-the-mill stuff. A slick action movie that blinds us to the real history of Salvador and so many others and above all to the whys and wherefores and targets of their struggles. We are shielded from the circumstances, political activity and purposes behind the expropriations and the political and revolutionary awakening that stretches over a lengthy career of struggle. How was the MIL born and for what purpose? Its connections with the workers' movement's most radical struggles. There is no reference to those struggles not even to the final one, in the wake of the execution, when the biggest factories in Barcelona and district shut down and thousands of workers demonstrated, with hundreds arrested on the Ramblas.

We are shown Salvador as some sort of a playboy and his comrades as a gang of ne'er-do-wells with political overtones.

The unbelievable chief warder Jesús Irurre
There is one thing that inspires disbelief and outrage in all of us who have sampled and experienced repression in the Model Prison – the character of prison warder Jesús Irrure.

In the scene where Salvador is being executed, up starts the aforesaid warder to erupt, not once, but twice: 'Sonofabitch! That murdering Franco! Bastard!' And yet, folks, nothing happens to him; he carries on with his career as a prison warder! We have eye-witness testimony as to the sort of repression seen from him in the Model Prison from 1973 to 1978 from several inmates who endured the bullying, humiliation and harassment normally inflicted by him during the night as he wielded his baton. Yet Escribano depicts him in his book as 'a great convert to democracy' and, despite the objections raised, Manuel Huerga's script contains this 'reassuring scene' which plainly fits the theory or sham morality behind his movie like a glove: the Franco regime is on its way out, crumbling under its own weight and even the gaoler is a MIL supporter and against the regime. This sparkling thesis is outweighed by the historical record. This politically-motivated falsehood, insinuating that in the early '70s what was needed was politics and not what we were doing, presents us as unhelpful nutcases. And Salvador, poor lad, a good lad, is our bamboozled and misguided victim. Our way was not the right way. Plainly the message here is: It is OK to do away with those who stand up to the system of exploitation and capitalist domination. No need to be quite that radical. There are, obviously, other political ways of working, the ones we have now and these are not changing and have not changed. The message going out to the young is unmistakable.

In this movie, not only are insignificant anecdotes accorded an inflated prominence and importance, but the true history of anti-capitalist subversion and of day to day lives altered through autonomous practice is covered up. This movie is manipulative and tinkers with the real history which was insulting and terrifying to all of us who, male and female, who fought and lived through those years.


One former member of the MIL, or 1,000, one former comrade of Salvador's, just one among the many.
*MIL (Moviemiento Iberico de Liberacion = Iberian Liberation Movement). The word 'mil' also translates as 'thousand'.
Translated by Paul Sharkey
Taken from KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library, #46-7, (July 2006) a Puig Antich/ Spanish Revolution/ Iron Column special.
The Great Swindle: 'This is not the tale of Salvador Puig Antich'
Puig Antich, 30 Years On by Javier Ortiz
Thirty Years on From the Execution of Salvador Puig Antich His sisters are to try to reopen the trial that led to his being garrotted ,from 'CNT'.
No God. No Master.

One pound or two dollars, available from:
Kate Sharpley Library, BM Hurricane, London, WC1N 3XX or
Kate Sharpley Library, PMB 820, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley CA 94704, USA
and will be posted at:
For a protest leaflet, issued by the Local Federation of Anarchist Groups (Barcelona) in March 1974 after the murder of Puig Antich, see KSL bulletin #16.
Objectors to the movie Salvador and its message have a site:
that contains a lot of MIL-related materials from Tellez and others. 'The Fight For History' which we published in the KSL Bulletin #20 is well worth reading again: 'Official History is the bourgeoisie's history and its mission today is to wreath nationalism, liberal democracy and the market economy in myth so as to have us believe that these are eternal, immutable and immovable.'

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author by PiL - N/Apublication date Mon Feb 25, 2008 22:04author email 2eyegg at aol dot comauthor address author phone 01234 567890Report this post to the editors

I was forced to sit through this tripe in a university viewing.

There is a group of Spanish and Catalan MA students at this university (which I will not name) who I greatly respect and who stressed the importance of this film and highly recommended that Hispanic Studies students see it.

I went along expecting an in depth analysis of Puig Antich and of the MIL. Instead I watched a 2 hour long soap opera that could have easily have been passed off as an extended advert .

There were several things that disturbed me about this film: Firsly, MIL's pamphlets and manifestos were equated with some kind of 'boys own' comic and not as serious political comments/propaganda (look at the rush of cartoon characters that appear in the shot of the publications as they come off the printing press. Even Captain America appears. I kid you not!).

Secondly, the macho 'gun battles' could have easily been at home in an episode of Starsky and Hutch, bullets flying everywhere, but no-one actually ever getting wounded or killed. Good job they weren't depicting reality, eh?

And finally, the sadistic and pointless circling of the camera as the 'protragonist' is garroted. This scene seemed to go on and on. But for what purpose? This certainly wasn't a comment on the political situation of the time, nor was it a comment on institutionalised brutality. It added nothing to our understanding of Puig Antich or to history. It doesn't take a genius to work out that strangulation takes a while to kill the victim. Why do we need to see that? It was simply sadistc.

I agree entirely with the analysis here. The makers of this film should be denounced and held accountable for their actions in rewriting history and short circuiting (political) debate. This film is insulting to both Catalans and Spaniards. But it's also an affront to the audience's intelligence.

author by graham - the league of common sensepublication date Wed Aug 11, 2010 07:14author email oggymcgraham at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone 0044657059000Report this post to the editors

i got this for free with publico paper on DVD. Cried all the way through. A tearjerker if ever there was one. thoroughly watchable throughout. Never thought i'd enjoy a film about anarchists. All i knew about anarchism was Anarchy in the Uk, by the Sex Pistols. all i knew were that anarchists were a bunch of ineffectual black clad ex or neo punk rockers, glue sniffers, all in all social misfits that liked a good old shout, throw a few bricks at the police force, arouse a standstill and then scarper when the going got tough.

this film got me to have a good old read about anarchism, what it was, what it is, why's and wherefores.

But really this review and the previous comment have made me realise why anarchism never really did, nor never really will, get its message across. it's too fuckin angy man. it's too fuckin negative man. it aint accomodating, It;s too much hot air. which is a pity cause it sounds marvellous in theory.

So, great, moving film. It'd probably turn a Nazi into to a conservative and a and a conservative to collectivist. Or perhaps not. But at least the sentiment weighs heavily in that direction..

A great great film which presents a Salvador Puig as a great hero. A pity some of you out their prefer the dubious weight of your own hopeless rhetoric to actually getting something real done.

author by ruby2zdy - nonepublication date Wed Oct 01, 2014 13:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Re: Whether anarchy can survive -- no. If there's no central control, preferably a FAIR democracy (unlike the US's), there will be nobody to stop a dictator from arising and then you're back to Franco or Hitler. In the US, we have a dictator -- Big Business -- which rules by paying the people who are supposed to represent us (The People) in many different ways, not the least of which is monetary support of their campaigns. Then those elected make the laws that favor Big Business.

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