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The Death of Durruti by Joan Llarch

The Death of Durruti by Joan Llarch

Buenaventura Durruti was probably the most outstanding figure in Spanish anarchist history.

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Another excellent title from Stuart Christie’s Christie Books Press, which has published some very interesting books over the past few years. First published in 1973, Joan Llarch examines the actual events surrounding the death of everybody’s favorite Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti, looking at the varied and often confusing accounts of that day.

The Durruti Column had moved from the Aragon front to Madrid in early November 1936 to defend the city against a ferocious Nationalist onslaught and Durruti was mortally wounded on the 19th of November, dying the following day, aged just 40 years.

The ‘official’ version of events was that, as Durruti’s car stopped in the University district of the City (the scene of the fiercest fighting) Durruti was struck by a Nationalist machine-gun bullet fired from a high window in the nearby Clinical hospital. However, almost immediately an air of suspicion and mystery arose, and many people began to seriously question the manner of his death.

Amid the general confusion, Llarch comments: “What seemed consistent however, was the widespread disbelief of what had happened. Questions, as to how the disaster had come about, seemed to be on everybody’s lips even though Durruti’s safety was always a matter of concern; it was almost as if what had happened was, in some way, expected” (p10).

I’ll not spoil the various theories for potential readers, but, safe to say, all is clearly not what it seems!
Perhaps the most damning fact of all is that Durruti was obviously shot from point-blank range, as shown by the powder-burns on the leather jacket that he wore throughout the early years of the civil War. In an interview with Dr Santamaria, the doctor that treated Durrutti’s wounds, he states that the shot was fired from a distance of 35 centimetres. Therefore, totally dismissing the long-range sniper version, Llarch states: “there is a fallacy here, a shot fired from such a distance could not have left a powder residue around the entry point of it’s target. There has been sufficient evidence to suggest that Durruti’s leather coat bore significant powder residue around the entry point of the chest region. this would make the long-range sniper theory untenable” (p157).

It is worth noting that the gun that killed Durruti, the ‘Naranjero’, was notorious for misfiring and it’s general unreliability. Again, not wanting to spoil it for readers, several questions arise as to whether his death was accidental or plain murder - readers will simply have to draw their own conclusions!

In this respect, I would recommend ‘The Man Who Killed Durruti’ by Pedro de Paz (Christie Books 2005), a fictionalized account which raises some intriguing questions about the role of Sergeant José Manzana - Durruti’s military adviser who was sitting next to Durruti in the car. Also, of course, everybody should read ‘Durruti’, Abel Paz’s exhaustive, brilliant and definitive biography of the man.

This book also provides a useful potted history of Durruti’s life and the activities of the Durruti Column for those unfamiliar with the life and work of this remarkable man. Peppered with stories and anecdotes from comrades who knew or met him, we are left with a moving and colorful picture of a figure who, 73 years later, continues to inspire modern-day anarchists with his uncompromising brand of militant class-struggle anarchism.

Highly recommended.

C

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