Introduction

Visual Index (Entire Poster Collection)

Catalogue

Chronology of the War

Acknowledgements

Lists of References

Afterword: Herbert R. Southworth Collection


 

¡Obrero! Ingresando en la columna de hierro fortaleces la revolución

[Worker! Your entry into the Iron Column strengthens the revolution]. C.N.T., F.A.I. Signed: Bauset.. A.I.D.C. Gráficas Valencia, Intervenido, C.N.T. U.G.T. Lithograph, 4 colors; 164 x 115 cm.

In the poster, a Columna de Hierro (Iron Column) militiaman, gesturing portentously like a neo-classical orator, is calling on his fellow Anarchists to come and join the Column. "Worker!" he shouts, "Your entry into the Iron Column strengthens the revolution." The Iron Column was a Valencian militia unit that fought in the Teruel offensive during the first seven months of the conflict. In the first days of the war, the Column opened up the San Miguel de los Reyes Penitentiary and recruited several hundred of its inmates into its ranks. While a number of these recruits were Anarchists, many more feigned interest in the anarchist cause for the chance to get their hands on a rifle and indulge in some officially- countenanced aggression. In the weeks following, the Column gained a reputation as undisciplined and unpredictable, both at the front and away from it.

Fiercely revolutionary, the Iron Column was against maintaining anything but the most tenuous ties to the moderate Popular Front government. Socialist prime minister Francisco Largo Caballero's call for militia reforms in September 1936 particularly infuriated the Column, which responded to the demand with mass desertions and insurrection. One historian recounts that in October 1936, "the Column abandoned the front ... and went on an expedition to Valencia spreading panic in its path. Its goal was to 'cleanse the rear of all parasitic elements that endangered the interests of the revolution.' In Valencia, it stormed hotels and restaurants, terrifying the city." At the conference of the anarcho-syndicalist trade union CNT in November 1936, an unyielding Iron Column representative told the gathering: "We accept nothing that runs counter to our anarchist ideas, ideas that must become a reality because you cannot preach one thing and practice another." Nevertheless, without the support of the CNT, whose leaders had backed the militia reforms, the Iron Column was unable to resist militarization for long. In the spring of 1937, the Column was dismantled and its members incorporated into the Eighty-Third Brigade of the Popular Army.

 
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