Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación, Salvador Puig Antich, and The Labor Aristocracy
The Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación (MIL) was an anti-capitalist group consisting of both anarchists and communists that was active between 1971-1973 in the fascist state of Spain under Franco. The group was unique in that, unlike most revolutionary organizations, it was not centralized. MIL did not believe that a centralized group could be revolutionary. They insisted that a centralized group was synonymous with a party and that a party could not achieve social revolution because a party, by necessity, seeks to gain state power and then strengthen its position. The strengthening of state power – any state power – weakens the revolution.
MIL Line and History
MIL was internationalist in scope and honored the memory and history of various class struggles around the globe. Including, but not limited to: the Iberian class struggle, the Revolution of 333 Days in Hungary, the November Revolution in Germany, and the Bavarian Council Republic. They also had ties to anti-capitalist organizations outside of Spain, especially in France. In addition to it’s internationalist practices, they also collaborated extensively with other revolutionary organizations in Spain (most notably the GAC and OLLA).
The main element of MIL’s revolutionary action was the expropriation of funds from the capitalists through armed agitation. They would spread the expropriated money around the anti-capitalist movement to help further other clandestine operations as well as support worker’s struggles, families of prisoners, and victims of the police. A good chunk of these expropriated funds were invested in the library that MIL helped create called the Ediciones Mayo del 37. The purpose of this library was to publish and distribute revolutionary texts that could help raise the political consciousness of the working class.
Another important aspect of MIL was its support of women’s struggles against patriarchy. They claimed that any group that did not support such struggles were not revolutionary, for it was impossible to fight against capitalism and remain blind to the oppression and exploitation of women in capitalist society. Therefore, any organization that did not support women’s struggles were purposely ignoring their plight, and thus, could not be called revolutionary. Furthermore, MIL advocated revolution across all aspects of society: social, cultural, sexual, familial, and political. Revolution is not partial to any part of society; revolution effects society in its entirety. MIL did not consider itself a vanguard of the revolution – in fact, they opposed the very idea of a vanguard. Which is why they engaged in armed agitation rather than armed struggle.
“‘Armed agitation’ is wholly different from the strategy of ‘armed struggle’, in which a specialized group acts as the vanguard of the movement by constituting the nucleus of a future army…serving as the military wing of a clandestine political party…or by carrying out the most spectacular actions and using its position to attempt to influence and direct a mass movement…on the contrary, the groups that carry out armed agitation understand themselves to be simply a part of a bigger movement, increasing that movement’s capacity for communication, self-defense, and self-financing by organizing and funding clandestine printing, attacking the forces of repression, and expropriating money from capitalists…They also seek to generalize their practice rather than centralize it, distributing weapons among the lower classes and encouraging the horizontal proliferation of armed groups.” (1)
The core reason why MIL was opposed to armed struggle and the philosophy of the need for a vanguard was because they believed that nobody but the proletariat could liberate the proletariat. The idea that the proletariat needed an external group to lead or liberate them went against everything that MIL fought for and believed in. The members of MIL did not think of themselves as heroes of the people. They believed that their role in the anti-capitalist struggle was to act in ways that would help the working-class become politicized and then liberate themselves. As mentioned previously, the way that MIL thought best to achieve their purpose was through the expropriation of funds. By the time that MIL dissolved in September 1973, they had expropriated 24 million Pesetas from capitalists.
Ultimately, MIL dissolved itself after it had reached a point where the members could no longer consider their actions as revolutionary. Although MIL opposed specialization they found that they had become an organization that practiced specialization. They had done so inadvertently by continuously engaging in armed agitation without developing a political line that could explain and support their action to the masses. Just as theory – political line – needs to be supported by practice, so too does practice need to be supported by theory. The lack of one diminishes the other.
Initially, a Congress was held by the members of MIL to seek a solution that could save the group. In the end, they decided to dissolve; in part because their actions had failed to inspire the proletariat to engage in open class warfare. They decided that, at that time, the working class was not sufficiently politically conscious and that their main objective should be to politicize the masses through propaganda until the time came when armed agitation was necessary.
Salvador Puig Antich
The most famous member of MIL was, by far, Salvador Puig Antich. Salvador was born on 30 May 1948 in Barcelona. He began rebelling against authority figures in his youth and was once expelled from school for punching a teacher in defense of another student. Although he was involved in the worker’s struggles in his youth, he did not engage in revolutionary actions until he joined MIL during the summer of 1972. He participated in his first bank robbery on October 21st of the same year (acting as the getaway driver), and the action resulted in the expropriation of 990,200 Pesetas from the Laietana Saving Bank. Shortly after that Salvador began to carry a gun and go into banks himself.
He was a committed anti-capitalist who identified as an anarchist. Although he didn’t join MIL until it had been active for a year, he quickly became a prominent figure within the organization. He authored several texts that were circulated among the members of MIL. The purpose of these texts was to formulate discussion about various topics relevant to the organization and the revolution.
On 25 September 1973 Salvador was in a shootout with the police. During the altercation he was shot twice and one officer was killed. After the incident occurred he was taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries; when he was determined to be in stable condition he was transferred to Modelo prison to await trail. On 9 January 1974 he was given the death penalty.
Although capitalists have attempted to portray Salvador as a degenerate criminal, the truth cannot be denied: he was a true revolutionary. He never denied his actions and always maintained that everything he did, he did in the name of the anti-capitalist struggle. His every action, his every thought, was centered toward the abolition of the state and the state apparatus. He never capitulated. He stayed true to the revolutionary struggle until the bitter end.
On 2 March 1974 Franco’s fascist state executed Salvador Puig Antich via garrot vil [editor: a chair that is used to strangle people to death]. He was 25 years old. Even though MIL did not develop a sufficient political line and dissolved after only two years of revolutionary action, it should by no means be forgotten. Both MIL and Salvador Puig Antich have influenced countless people in Spain to engage in revolutionary struggle. And, importantly, MIL advanced the theory of the Labor Aristocracy in a time when few did. Even today few recognize that in places like the United States of America, the proletarian class has ceased to exist and a new class has risen in its place; a parasitic class that benefits from the exploitation of the working class in the Third World. This parasitic class is the Labor Aristocracy.
MIL on the Labor Aristocracy
The same day that Salvador was executed Oriol Solé wrote the following from Modelo prison:
“In the United States, in Europe, under the rule of the superpowers, the proletariat has disappeared. Society has engendered a new social class that creates surplus, accumulates capital, and at the same time grows bloated on the surplus generated by millions of wage workers in the poor countries. A new class that builds itself a paradise paid for with the blood of the exploited poor of Africa, Asia and Latin America.” (2)
MIL’s line regarding the Labor Aristocracy was spot on, but several of their positions were flawed. For example, MIL viewed a vanguard as synonymous with a party and argued that any party would seize state power and strengthen its position. They held that no party could be revolutionary because the point of revolution is to abolish the state and the state apparatus.
This is an anarchist view and cannot lead to revolution. The anarchist believes that you should abolish the state and its apparatus immediately. While their concern about a new power oppressive power arising is a valid one, the communist recognizes the impracticality of combating strong class enemies without a state power and acknowledges that an intermediary stage between capitalism and communism is necessary – this stage being socialism. The socialist stage gradually diminishes until the state no longer exists. Only then can communism been achieved.
Another flaw is MIL’s view regarding the vanguard. They did not believe one was necessary and actively spoke against the creation of one. However, history has shown us that not only do vanguards work, but they are necessary to carry out a revolution. Three such examples are the centralized vanguards led by Mao, Castro, and Lenin. All of which carried out successful revolutions. Without their vanguards, those revolutions would not have occurred.
Yet, even with obvious flaws in their political theory, the MIL should not be thrown on the ash heap of history. Both MIL and Salvador Puig Antich are famous in Spain for their revolutionary legacy. But they are little known elsewhere. We should remember Salvador for his revolutionary actions, beliefs, and ultimate sacrifice. He lived for the people and he died for the people. Likewise, we should not let the MIL fall through the cracks of history. In the two short years of its existence, its actions shook the foundations of Spain, and surprisingly, it did so without killing. The only death attributed to MIL was that officer killed during the shootout with Salvador. MIL directly contributed to the worker’s struggles and did not seek to control or direct the proletariat for personal gain.
Every anti-capitalist revolutionary should remember Salvador Puig Antich and MIL and celebrate their legacy every March 2nd – the anniversary of Salvador’s death.
- Salvador Puig Antich: Collected Writings on Repression and Resistance in Franco’s Spain; by Ricard de Vargas Golarons; translated by Peter Gelderloos; pg.16
- ibid; pg.159
MIM(Prisons) adds: The story of MIL becoming specialized when they opposed specialization echoes the lesson of Jo Freeman’s The Tyranny of Structurelessness. This essay is included in our study pack on organizational structure, for those who want to dive deeper into the Maoist line on this topic.
While MIL grasped the economic realities of the imperialist countries at an early stage of history, like many others they failed to answer the question of how to organize for the end of oppression in these conditions. This has been a question that many similar groups in the First World took to similar conclusions, leading to dissolution. MIM attempts to answer these questions by recognizing the fact that armed struggle is not viable against a strong imperialist state, and the need to be a mass-based movement. We cannot expect huge or flashy actions at this stage of the struggle, and we must build the infrastructure and educate the cadre for when conditions change. Time is on our side.