< Back to Remembering Federico Arcos by David Watson

Robby Barnes & Sylvie Kashdan
Séamas Cain
Frank & Marilyn Crosswell
Anatole Dolgoff
Federico’s nephew Juan Manuel
David Furer
Manuel (Manolo) Carlos García
Dieter Gebauer
Manel Aisa Pàmpols
David Porter
Paco Ríos and Isa Huguet
Joel Sucher & Steven Fischler

Robby Barnes & Sylvie Kashdan

In 2009 when a group of Seattle anarchists launched our local lending library/infoshop, we chose the name L@s Quixotes. We made this choice to reaffirm our links with our spiritual ancestors, as represented by Los Quijotes del Ideal, an anarchist youth group that was active in the Spanish revolution of 1936 through 1939. They stood for being realistic by demanding what appeared, to some, to be impossible: a society free of exploitation and oppression. We learned of Los Quijotes–and much more-from one of its members, Federico Arcos, whose life and rebellious spirit we want to remember and celebrate today.

Our respect and love for Federico prompts us today to affirm our links and solidarity with anarchists everywhere who–now and in the future–continue to be realistic by demanding the impossible, a world free from all forms of hierarchy and domination.

Robby Barnes and Sylvie Kashdan, June, 2015

Robby Barnes
Remembering Federico and Pura

Are the streets of Barcelona quiet now?
Without the passion and the fury
Of our comrades dear?
Will their bright ideal–and ours–
Awake again tomorrow
And soothe the pain of ages?
And tend the wounds of time?
And free all hearts and hands?
Are you ready?

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Séamas Cain

I am writing to people who will gather at the Cass Café in Detroit, Michigan on Sunday, 19 July 2015 to commemorate and honor Federico Arcos.

I remember Federico as a friend, a compañero, a philosopher, a fellow anarchist, a fellow poet, a social activist in the here and now, and a multi-dimensional autodidact.

Federico grew up in the old CNT districts of Barcelona in the 1920s and 1930s. He was a member of Los Quijotes del Ideal in the Barrio de Gracia in revolutionary Barcelona in 1937.

However, Unlike many of the Iberian anarchists who survived the Spanish Civil War and the total fascist oppression which followed it, Federico did not spend ALL of his time grieving for loss and grieving for the horror of the Spanish tragedy. He understood that the struggle for freedom is a permanent struggle. It is a struggle in the here and now. Thus he did not hesitate to involve himself with the New Left anarchists of the generation of the 1960s and 1970s, my own generation.

Forced out of Spain, Federico worked much of his life in a Ford factory in Windsor, Ontario. He was a loyal and respected rank-and-file union comrade, participating in the historic 110-day Canadian Auto Workers strike in Windsor in 1955. He was also a behind-the-scenes theoretician and supporter of the anarcho-syndicalist-involved MEI strike in Duluth, Minnesota, and its twin-strike, a point-of-production sympathy strike, in Mezzomerico and Novara, Italy, during 1999-2000. Federico was a true compañero. He never failed to give us aid. He never failed to answer our questions. He never failed to calm and balance our jitters. He never failed to give us thoughtful advice. Federico understood the true meaning of the word SOLIDARITY.

Federico loved poetry. He was a true anarchist autodidact. He could quote large amounts of poetry by heart. Indeed, he believed in the power of the word, just as he believed in the power of freedom. As a poet myself, I was especially thrilled by his meditations on the human condition. I was also thrilled by Federico’s own life, a life of meaningful dedication.

In freedom,

Séamas Cain
Duluth, Minnesota

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Frank & Marilyn Crosswell

Remembering Federico

Frank first knew him as a Machine Repairman and later as an Inspector at Ford Motor Company in Windsor. This was back in the 50’s.

We affectionately called him “Freddie”. We really got to know him and his wife while we were volunteering at Windsor Occupation Safety & Health (where Freddie volunteered for years) and Windsor Occupational Health Clinic Ontario Workers. As many of you know Freddie also volunteered there for many, many years.

Freddie kept us very busy keeping his computer up to date and solving small problems. He used many languages on the computer-English, French, Italian, Spanish & Catalan.

He would visit our home and considered us Family- no doubt he considered a lot of you his family. He would bring us tomatoes and peppers from his garden, and went home with cookies.

The world has lost a good person, he will be missed and remembered by us all.

Frank & Marilyn Crosswell,
Windsor, Ontario

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Anatole Dolgoff, son of the respected Russian-American anarchist Sam Dolgoff (1902-1990)

My father, Sam Dolgoff, first met Federico at an anarchist convention in upstate NY or Ohio — I do not recall exactly where — 1960 or so. The impression each made on the other was immediate and lasting. How close were they? In 1990 I rode in the ambulance complete with oxygen tank, etc., that took my father home from New York Hospital. There was nothing more the doctors could do for him. They gave him a month or two. My father knew better.

“It’s getting dark,” he said, as I eased him into the bed.

“Its broad daylight,” I answered.

“I want to call Federico, “he said. I handed him the old rotary phone with the long black cord and he laboriously dialed Federico. I do not know how he commanded the breath to speak, but he did so, firmly.

“Federico! Listen, I’ve got to go now. Keep up the fight, good comrade. Salud!” And he hung up.

My father died that night.

Russell Blackwell, a dear friend of my father and a neglected figure in the history of the movement — a man who had fought on the side of the CNT during 1937 May Uprising in Barcelona, who had been arrested many times and tortured by the communists, who had come within an inch of being executed by them, and barely escaped — took one look at Federico, and said, “This guy is the real thing!”

Is there a human being privileged of knowing Federico who can think otherwise?

I have had that privilege for 55 years.

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Federico’s nephew Juan Manuel

Elegy to Federico Arcos Martínez

Dear Uncle,

We had few personal encounters, sometimes in Barcelona and two in Windsor. But your closeness to us was intense and evolving.

I still remember the visit to Point Pelee National Park and your emotion when, beside the shores of Lake Erie, remembering that its parallel (near the 42nd) is almost the same as that of Barcelona, ??your city, where your spirit was forged.

We were awed to learn of your extraordinary biography, but we did so slowly because you were always modest and preferred to focus on the family ties most.

Your advice, your humor, your poetry, Pura, Montse, your family were the main themes of your life. But they were based on your values, which were your fight and vital passion.

Thanks for everything, Tío Federico. Because your name always brings to my mind two words: Justice and Freedom.

Your nephew,
Juan Manuel
Barcelona, Julio 2015

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David Furer,
former Detroiter and old friend of Federico

According to a joke he liked to tell about doing his birthday in Arabic, were Federico still alive, yesterday would’ve marked his 59th birthday.

It was my pleasure to know him during the final 27 years of what was a long, and more importantly, impactful, life. Whether phoning him from a variety of locations every month or two, or traversing the river when near, it was a pleasure to engage in matters currently of interest to him.

A sentimental man given to reminiscing of events and people past, he continued to enjoy learning of and commenting upon contemporary matters for social and political import, even sharing the occasional observation of new concepts and objects for which he’d little experience with curiosity and opinions. Though often living in what was his estimable past he wouldn’t shirk from expressing his thoughts of what was new. Maintaining a youthful disposition, an appreciation of life’s passing pleasures, is challenging during life’s expected ebbs & flows, more so when one’s partner, peers and contemporaries have died leaving you memories no longer shared with the living. In facing these challenges Federico suffered but also succeeded by sharing these memories, and making new ones, with those remaining to fondly remember and speak of him.

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Manuel (Manolo) Carlos García

Of the many compañeros I have known throughout my life, two of them lived through the Spanish Revolution of 1936: Angel Urazáiz endured the Franco dictatorship in Spain and spent many years in prison; Fede was exiled and endured the French concentration camps.

The thing that most attracts me to their lives is that despite all the hardships they suffered, in the many moments that we shared never did I detect in them any hatred or thirst for vengeance; they were affectionate, sensitive, and lovers of literature. They are the two older compañeros who have influenced me the most. Their way of spreading their ideas was through example. They are models to follow in the world of freedom and solidarity. We will carry them forever in our hearts.

Manuel Carlos García

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Dieter Gebauer

Homage to Federico Arcos

I met Federico for the first time 1993 in Barcelona during an international anarchist conference, through Diego Camacho who – under the pseudonym Abel Paz – wrote many books related to the social revolution in Spain.

Federico knew very well how lucky he was to have experienced a really free society and often enough he told me how safe and comfortable he felt in ‘his big family’ of Barcelona. Obviously, this revolutionary change had an enormous impact on each individual, when authoritarian behavior, egoism, thirst for power, violence, jealousy, etc. disappeared when Barcelona was collectivized within only about 30 hours.

During all my many visits to Federico I experienced his very cordial friendship. A nice example for this were the daily hugs when we met for breakfast in the kitchen, at night before going to bed, but also during the day, after he climbed a couple of stairs to compensate for our difference in height, demanding firmly: ‘give me a hug!’

Other occasions were my farewells when leaving his house for the airport of Detroit. Hugging each other he told me: ‘Now I can live another year’. Interestingly, he did not say this at the end of my last visit in September 2014.

As Federico was very much used to read, already as a boy, texts of newspapers, books, journals or letters loudly to his illiterate parents and others, he was frequently reading also to me many texts, including his own ones, usually asking me at the end: ‘How do you like it?’

In the course of my visit in 2010 I helped him to pack about 2 tons of his internationally well-known library that is now located in the Bilblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona. The fact that there were many dedications written into his books to be packed and the fact that he explained to me about their authors, was very informative for me. Of course, this delayed the progress of packing considerably, but after two weeks we finally managed, having filled more than 100 boxes.

Federico lived from his memories; he believed in the good part of human nature, in solidarity, mutual aid, equality, justice, freedom, and most of all, love. Having experienced all this personally, it goes without saying that he was highly indignant about the present political-economic situation worldwide.

I feel very privileged to have met Federico and to have been one of his “compañeros de alma” (soul mates). He used this expression frequently to describe our common principles that are so difficult to put into reality in an authoritarian-mystical environment, although this will be absolutely necessary if our species wants to survive on this planet.

Hasta siempre, compañero de alma!

Dieter Gebauer,
Zurich, Switzerland

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Manel Aisa Pàmpols

Hello from Barcelona,

Thank you so much for being there for Federico. Thank you for remembering in your newspaper one of Anarchism’s greats—our esteemed Federico Arcos, a “Quijote del Ideal” who, for as long as we have the strength to breathe, we will remember as an example of integrity, a person of great emotional depth, which made him—in the most precious and deserving sense—the last “Quijote del Ideal,” Chapeau por Federico (hats off to Federico!) Long live Anarchism!
Hasta siempre, Federico. We will respect and admire you forever!

Manel Aisa Pàmpols

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David Porter

I just read Peter’s forwarded email about Federico’s death. I am stunned despite feeling the likelihood of such news during these past few weeks.

Of course, there is too much to express in a simple email. I’m glad I was notified. I already feel such a great loss as he was for me such an important comrade and teacher for almost four decades. As we all know, it did not take long, when in his presence, to feel the gut-level passion and commitment from the early days of the civil war and revolution still intensely inspiring him and shared with others. He inspired so much with all of us. And his unending commitment to have the correct story told was an invaluable continuing contribution to the flow of articles and books about those times that he assisted. Of course, Federico was also very much in the present and so generously offered what he could in comradeship and resources to benefit the movement. In my mind, he will always be there.

There are many stories to be told about Federico and I hope that there will be occasions for such, in community, before long.
For the present, I’m removed from the possibility of traveling for a number of weeks because of pending eye surgery for a torn retina. But please keep me informed. My son will read my email to me as my eye heals.

My best to both of you. Salud y libertad!

David Porter,
Author/editor of Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution

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Paco Ríos and Isa Huguet

Paco Rios, director of Durruti y la revolución española (Durruti in the Spanish Revolution, 1998), assistant director, Vivir la utopia (To Live Utopia, 1997), and old friend of Federico, writing from Argelaguer, Gerona, about ninety miles from Barcelona

Within a few hours of each other the poet Jesús Lizano and Federico disappeared. Two friends and compañeros, and that hurts.

In Federico’s case, we will miss the long telephone conversations and more than anything, the walks through our neighborhood, Clot: Rogent Street; the modernist façade of the school “d’Arts i Oficis” (Arts and Trades), where he studied; International Street; Xifre Street… etc. Part of the libertarian memory of Barcelona’s neighborhoods, la Barcelona rebelde (Rebel Barcelona), disappears with him.

Looking at the photo of the Quijotes del Ideal, I can only feel emotion, the kind Federico felt upon remembering his youth and “als companys” (his friends/compañeros)…. I’ve been lucky to know them. They offered me their friendship and they filled me with knowledge.

To hand on what we learned from Federico and his compañeros, Isabel and I are copying and digitalizing more than 15,000 images from newspapers of the libertarian exiles from the library of Helenio Molina, cataloging part of his library and copying documents from American, European and African exiles from the section of the CNT critical of the “official” CNT, from Toulouse (including Federico). Federico’s donation to the Library of Catalonia complements what Isabel and I are copying and organizing from the Molina-Iturbe family.

Through an organization called “Argelaguer en Transición” (Argelaguer in Transition), 20 families, young and not so young, have established a collective garden, created exchange and donation fairs and events and a Time Bank (specialized work without remuneration). We have a cooperative for ecological products that we acquire from the farmers in the region and a “farmacia viva,” a return to family medicine based on the knowledge of the plants in our area. We have a system to optimize and share trips in private cars and are studying the creation of our own currency. We have many more projects, all somewhat uncertain, but there is a lot of excitement.

I think that participating in this modest social practice is the best homage that we can offer to Federico “i als seus companys” and to his compañeros.
With a heartfelt remembrance for our “company” Federico (that the earth lie lightly upon him) un abrazo for you all.

Salud y rebeldía (health and rebellion),
Paco Ríos and Isa Huguet

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Joel Sucher & Steven Fischler

Some Thoughts about Federico Arcos

We first met Federico in the late 1970’s during the production of our documentary, Anarchism in America, through a mutual friend, the late historian of Anarchism, Paul Avrich. When we later decided to spin off a separate film about Federico, little did we know that we had stepped into a hornet’s nest. Endless confrontations ensued about his “role.” It shouldn’t be about him, he’d argue, but about anarchist ideals and the legacy of the movement.

What Federico did during and immediately after the Spanish Revolution was a little bit murky to us and he seemed intent on making it intentionally so, always diverting the conversation from his personal exploits to a discussion of the importance of the ideals that moved so many during those heady days of so-called Spanish Civil War.

While individual freedom remained of paramount importance in anarcho-communist and anarcho-syndicalist philosophy, Federico was always quick to point out that its pursuit was always subservient to the greater good. He told one story that underscored how seriously anarchists took this notion. During the revolution the compañeros and compañeras—he eschewed the term “comrade” as being too closely associated with the Communists—who listened with rapt attention to Anarchist orators were roundly discouraged from clapping. Why? There was a fear that this sort of acknowledgement would breed egoism and self-centeredness in the speakers.

We knew his beloved wife Pura whom he had met during the conflict. She had joined a rural anarchist collective and was a member of the anarchist Free Women – the “Mujeres Libres.” We were present when the two offered conflicting views of the past. In one case, while Federico was waxing poetic about the collectives, suddenly Pura interrupted:

“Fede… you forget about how the CNT militia leaders would enter the dining room and insist on their own tables… Such anarchists…”
It was good-natured jostling but an exchange that captured perfectly the yin and yang of a movement that could tolerate passionate debates.

When we first descended into Federico’s finished basement in the mid-1990’s the feeling was something akin to what archeologist Howard Carter must have felt in 1922 when he discovered King Tut’s tomb. Here, in a modest home on a side street in Windsor Ontario were riches beyond belief. It seemed to us that Federico had single-handedly saved the legacy of Spanish Anarchism – a legacy that Franco had sought to forever eliminate from the Spanish consciousness. Books, pamphlets, posters, letters, pictures were all crammed into the small basement, and occupying a place of honor, the anarchist equivalent of a holy grail, was Emma Goldman’s dusty old suitcase.

Federico was relentless in his self-appointed task, doing whatever he could to preserve an important moment in history for future generations of anarchists, who he was convinced would surely carry on the dream of “the Idea.” He lived long enough to see his collection find its way back to Barcelona – his final wish – where it now resides in the National Library of Catalonia.

Federico: Your work is done… Companero, you can rest easy…

Joel Sucher & Steven Fischler,
Pacific Street Films,
Brooklyn, New York

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