Buenaventura Durruti
José Buenaventura Durruti Dumange (14 July 1896 – 20 November 1936) was a central figure of Spanish anarchism
Anarchism in Spain
Anarchism has historically gained more support and influence in Spain than anywhere else, especially before Francisco Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939....

 during the period leading up to and including the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...


Early life

Durruti was born in León, Spain
León, Spain
León is the capital of the province of León in the autonomous community of Castile and León, situated in the northwest of Spain. Its city population of 136,985 makes it the largest municipality in the province, accounting for more than one quarter of the province's population...

, son of Anastasia Dumangue and Santiago Durruti, a railway worker in the yard at Leon who described himself as a libertarian socialist. Buenaventura was the second of eight brothers (one was killed in the October 1934 uprising in the Asturias, another died fighting the Fascists on the Madrid front).

In 1910, aged 14, Durruti left school to become a trainee mechanic in the railway yard in León
León, Spain
León is the capital of the province of León in the autonomous community of Castile and León, situated in the northwest of Spain. Its city population of 136,985 makes it the largest municipality in the province, accounting for more than one quarter of the province's population...

. Like his father, he joined the socialist
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 Unión General de Trabajadores
Unión General de Trabajadores
The Unión General de Trabajadores is a major Spanish trade union, historically affiliated with the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party .-History:...

 (UGT) union. In 1917 he took an active part in the strike of August 1917 called by the UGT when the government overturned an agreement between the union and the employers. The government brought in the Spanish Army
Spanish Army
The Spanish Army is the terrestrial army of the Spanish Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is one of the oldest active armies - dating back to the 15th century.-Introduction:...

 to suppress the strike; they killed 70 people and injured more than 500 workers. 2,000 of the strikers were imprisoned without trial or legal process. Durruti managed to escape, but had to flee abroad to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 where he came into contact with exiled anarchists. The brutality of the Spanish State had a profound and lasting effect on the young Durruti. From the fall of 1917 until the beginning of 1920, Durruti worked in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 as a mechanic. He then decided to return to Spain and arrived at San Sebastian
San Sebastián
Donostia-San Sebastián is a city and municipality located in the north of Spain, in the coast of the Bay of Biscay and 20 km away from the French border. The city is the capital of Gipuzkoa, in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. The municipality’s population is 186,122 , and its...

, Basque Country
Basque Country
The Basque Country may refer to one of three areas inhabited by the Basque people:*The Basque Country , an autonomous community of Spain *The Basque Country , the approximate cultural area of...

, just across the border. Here, he was introduced to local anarchists such as Suberviola, Ruiz, Aldabatrecu or Marcelino del Campo, with whom he formed the anarchist armed-struggle group Los Justicieros ("The Avengers"). In 1921, during the inauguration of the Great Kursaal in San Sebastian, members of this group attempted unsuccessfully to murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

Spanish monarchy
The Monarchy of Spain, constitutionally referred to as The Crown and commonly referred to as the Spanish monarchy or Hispanic Monarchy, is a constitutional institution and an historic office of Spain...

 Alfonso XIII
Alfonso XIII of Spain
Alfonso XIII was King of Spain from 1886 until 1931. His mother, Maria Christina of Austria, was appointed regent during his minority...

. Shortly after Buenasca, the then President of the recently-formed anarchist-controlled Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo CNT
-Buildings:* Canadian National Tower, or CN Tower, a communications and observation tower in Toronto, Ontario, Canada-Businesses:* Cantiere Navale Triestino , an Italian shipbuilding company founded in 1908 and renamed Cantieri Riuniti dell' Adriatico Monfalcone in 1929-Non-profit organizations:*...

, persuaded Durruti to go to Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

 to organise the workers there where the anarchist movement, as well as the syndicalists, was being brutally suppressed and most of its members jailed or executed. Here, with Juan García Oliver
Juan García Oliver
Juan García Oliver was a Spanish Anarcho-syndicalist revolutionary, and a leading figure of Anarchism in Spain....

, Francisco Ascaso
Francisco Ascaso
Francisco Ascaso Abadía was a prominent Anarcho-syndicalist figure in Spain.A baker and waiter, Ascaso joined the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo and one of its armed groups, Los Justicieros...

, and other members of Los Justicieros, he founded Los Solidarios
Los Solidarios
Los Solidarios , also known as Crisol , was an Spanish anarchist armed-struggle group founded in 1922 or 1923 in Barcelona, as a reply to the dirty war strategy used by the employers and government against trade unions....

("Solidarity"). In 1923 the group was also implicated in the assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 of Cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 Juan Soldevilla y Romero
Juan Soldevilla y Romero
Juan Soldevilla y Romero was a Spanish Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Zaragoza from 1901 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1919.-Biography:...

, as a reprisal for the killing of an anarcho-syndicalist
Anarcho-syndicalism is a branch of anarchism which focuses on the labour movement. The word syndicalism comes from the French word syndicat which means trade union , from the Latin word syndicus which in turn comes from the Greek word σύνδικος which means caretaker of an issue...

 union activist Salvador Seguí
Salvador Seguí
Salvador Seguí , known as El noi del sucre for his habit of eating the sugar cubes served him with his coffee, was a Catalan anarcho-syndicalist in the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo , a Spanish confederation of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions active in Catalonia.Together with Ángel Pestaña,...

. After Miguel Primo de Rivera
Miguel Primo de Rivera
Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, 2nd Marquis of Estella, 22nd Count of Sobremonte, Knight of Calatrava was a Spanish dictator, aristocrat, and a military official who was appointed Prime Minister by the King and who for seven years was a dictator, ending the turno system of alternating...

 seized power in Spain in 1923, Durruti and his comrades organized attacks on the military barracks in Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

 and on the border stations near France. These attacks were unsuccessful and quite a few anarchists were killed. Following these defeats, Durruti, Ascaso and Oliver fled to Latin America. They subsequently travelled widely, visiting Cuba and carrying out bank robberies in Chile and Argentina. {Los Expropriadores Anarquistas| Osvaldo Bayer | Wikipedia entry}
Durruti and his companions returned to Spain and Barcelona, becoming an influential militant within two of the largest anarchist organisations in Spain at the time, the Federación Anarquista Ibérica
Federación Anarquista Ibérica
The Federación Anarquista Ibérica is a Spanish organization of anarchist militants active within affinity groups inside the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo trade union. It is often abbreviated as CNT-FAI because of the close relationship between the two organizations...

 (FAI), and of the anarcho-syndicalist trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

 Confederación Nacional del Trabajo
Confederación Nacional del Trabajo
The Confederación Nacional del Trabajo is a Spanish confederation of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions affiliated with the International Workers Association . When working with the latter group it is also known as CNT-AIT...

 (CNT). The influence Durruti's group gained inside the CNT caused a split, with a reformist faction under Ángel Pestaña
Ángel Pestaña
Ángel Pestaña Nuñez was a Spanish Anarcho-syndicalist and later Syndicalist leader.-Early life:...

 leaving in 1931 and subsequently forming the Syndicalist Party
Syndicalist Party
Syndicalist Party was a left-wing political party in Spain, formed by Ángel Pestaña in 1932. Pestaña, a leading member of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo trade union, formed the party in response to the growing influence of the Iberian Anarchist Federation over the CNT...


In the Civil War

Working closely with his comrades in the FAI and CNT Durruti helped to co-ordinate armed resistance to the military rising of Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

, an effort which was to prove vital in preventing General Goded's attempt to seize control of Barcelona. During the battle for the Atarazanas Barracks, Durruti's long-time comrade and closest friend Ascaso was shot dead. Less than a week later, on 24 July 1936 Durruti led over 3,000 armed anarchists (later to become known as the Durruti Column
Durruti Column
The Durruti Column was the largest anarchist column formed during the Spanish Civil War . During the first months of the war it has come to be the most recognized and popular military organisations fighting at the republican side...

) from Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

 to Zaragoza
Zaragoza , also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain...

. After a brief and bloody battle at Caspe
Caspe or Casp is a historic town and municipality in the province of Zaragoza, in the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It is situated some 100 km to the east of the provincial capital, Zaragoza.-History:...

 (in Aragón
Aragon is a modern autonomous community in Spain, coextensive with the medieval Kingdom of Aragon. Located in northeastern Spain, the Aragonese autonomous community comprises three provinces : Huesca, Zaragoza, and Teruel. Its capital is Zaragoza...

), they halted at Pina de Ebro
Pina de Ebro
Pina de Ebro is a municipality located in the province of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. According to the 2004 census , the municipality has a population of 2,352 inhabitants....

, on the advice of a regular army officer, postponing an assault on Zaragoza.


On 12 November, having been persuaded to leave Aragón by the anarchist leader Federica Montseny
Federica Montseny
Federica Montseny i Mañé was a Spanish anarchist, intellectual and Minister of Health during the social revolution that occurred in Spain parallel to the Civil War...

 on behalf of the government, Durruti led his militia to Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 to aid in the defense of the city. On 19 November, he was shot while leading a counter attack in the Casa de Campo
Casa de Campo
The Casa de Campo is the largest urban park situated west of central Madrid, . It was formerly a royal hunting estate. Its area is more than ....

 area. (See also Battle of Madrid.) According to author Antony Beevor
Antony Beevor
Antony James Beevor, FRSL is a British historian, educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst. He studied under the famous military historian John Keegan. Beevor is a former officer with the 11th Hussars who served in England and Germany for five years before resigning his commission...

 (The Spanish Civil War, 1982
1982 in literature
The year 1982 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*La Bicyclette Bleue by Régine Deforges becomes France's best selling novel ever.-New books:...

), Durruti was killed when a companion's machine pistol
Machine pistol
A machine pistol is a handgun-style, often magazine-fed and self-loading firearm, capable of fully automatic or burst fire, and normally chambered for pistol cartridges. The term is a literal translation of Maschinenpistole, the German term for a hand-held automatic weapon...

 went off by mistake. At the time, the anarchists lied and claimed he had been hit by an enemy sniper's bullet "for reasons of morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

 and propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....


Another account of Durruti's death, given in Durruti: The People Armed
Durruti: The People Armed
Durruti: The People Armed is a book by Abel Paz. Paz was a famous anarchist, who was active in the Spanish Civil War. The subject of the book is the Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti and his life....

by Abel Paz
Abel Paz
Abel Paz was a Spanish anarchist, former combatant and historian.Abel Paz was the pen name of Diego Camacho. He was born in Almería in 1921, and moved with his family to Barcelona in 1929...

, claims that rather than being shot by a fellow soldier he was killed by distant gunfire coming from the area around the Clinical Hospital in University City (Madrid), which had been taken over by Nationalist forces. After a fight to regain control and contact was re-established with troops cut off from communications, Durruti returned temporarily to the Miguel-Angel barracks to issue orders. A message from Liberto Roig arrived informing Durruti that the Clinical Hospital was in the process of being evacuated. Alarmed, he asked his Chauffeur Julio Grave to get his car and leave immediately for the Hospital. His chauffeur gives the following testimonial:

We passed a little group of hotels which are at the bottom of this avenue (Queen Victoria Avenue) and we turned towards the right. Arriving at the big street, we saw a group of militiamen coming towards us. Durruti thought it was some young men who were leaving the front. This area was completely destroyed by the bullets coming from the Clinical Hospital, which had been taken during these days by the Moors and which dominated all the environs. Durruti had me stop the car which I parked in the angle of one of those little hotels as a precaution. Durruti got out of the auto and went towards the militiamen. He asked them where they were going. As they didn't know what to say, he ordered them to return to the front. The militiamen obeyed and Durruti returned towards the car. The rain of bullets became stronger. From the vast red heap of the clinical Hospital, the Moors and the Guardia Civil were shooting furiously. Reaching the door of the machine, Durruti collapsed, a bullet through his chest.

He died on 20 November 1936, in a makeshift operating theatre set up in what was formerly the Ritz Hotel at the age of 40. The bullet was lodged in the heart, and the diagnosis was "death caused by pleural hemorrhage". The doctors wrote a report in which the path of the bullet and the character of the wound was recorded but not the calibre of the bullet, since they hadn't removed it and there was no autopsy.


Durruti's body was transported across country to Barcelona for his funeral. Over a half million people filled the streets to accompany the cortege during its route to the Montjuïc Cemetery. It was the last large-scale public demonstration of anarchist strength of numbers during the bitter and bloody Civil War.

Hugh Thomas remarks: “the death of Durruti marked the end of the classic age of Spanish Anarchism. An Anarchist poet proclaimed that Durruti’s nobility while living would cause ‘a legion of Durrutis’ to spring up behind him.”

See also

  • Anarchism in Spain
    Anarchism in Spain
    Anarchism has historically gained more support and influence in Spain than anywhere else, especially before Francisco Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939....

  • Anarchist Catalonia
    Anarchist Catalonia
    Anarchist Catalonia was the part of Catalonia controlled by the anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo during the Spanish Civil War.-Anarchists enter government:...

  • The Durutti Column
    The Durutti Column
    The Durutti Column are an English post-punk band formed in 1978 in Manchester, England. The band is an ongoing project of guitarist Vini Reilly who is often accompanied by drummer Bruce Mitchell. Other current members are Keir Stewart and Reilly's girlfriend Poppy Morgan...

     - a rock band, whose name derives from Durruti

External links

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