SALVADOR (PUIG ANTICH) (SALVADOR) (PNA) Spain - United Kingdom / 2006 / 35 mm / Colour / 138 min / Dir.: Manuel Huerga In 1974, Salvador Puig Antich, a violent revolutionary, became the last political prisoner to be executed in Spain. This is his story.
Or so says the World Film Festival’s description… already i knew a little bit about Antich, and about the MIL, the autonomist/anarchist group which carried out armed actions in Spain in the early 1970s. Against Franco, but also against capitalism and the State. And so i bought my ticket, and went to the movies…
Having just seen the film, i can say that as a film it is fine, well done, makes you sad. Very sad in fact, and that is clearly the movie-makers’ intent. As drama, i can’t complain.
But as a piece of political history, as a supposedly “non-fiction” account, it fails in those ways that liberal revisionism most often does. Turning the story of a person who was also a revolutionary, and who ended up paying the ultimate price for this… into a simple story of injustice and brutality, pain and incoherence.
It was only after i came home and looked it up on the web that i found the following on the Anarkismo website, written by an anonymous former comrade of Antich’s, and well worth reading:
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 AntichWe 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 IrurreThere 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.
I CALL FOR A BOYCOTT AND EMPHATIC DENUNCIATION OF THIS MOVIE'S MISAPPROPRIATION AND MISREPRESENTATION OF THE HISTORICAL RECORD!
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. Includes:The Great Swindle: 'This is not the tale of Salvador Puig Antich'Puig Antich, 30 Years On by Javier OrtizThirty 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 orKate Sharpley Library, PMB 820, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley CA 94704, USA and will be posted at: www.katesharpleylibrary.net
--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: www.paremoslapeliculasalvador.tk 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.'