Teresa Claramunt Creus, born in Sabadell in 1862 to a working-class family, was an indefatigable organiser of Catalonia’s textile workers. She was imprisoned in 1896 during the roundups of the Montjuïc process, when a bomb attack blamed on anarchists brought about a major crackdown on Barcelona’s libertarian movement. She was deported to Britain upon her release a year later. Claramunt Creus arrived in London with a group of refugees in July 1897 and spent several months there. Fellow Catalan Fernando Tarrida del Mármol introduced her to other anarchist exiles from across Europe and to British labour organisers. She wrote for Freedom, the flagship publication of the London anarchists. The British consul in Barcelona referred to Claramunt Creus as ‘the Spanish Louise Michel’, by virtue of her charisma, her energy, and her tragic experience of repression and banishment. In the autumn of 1897, she left Britain and traveled to France. She worked as a weaver in Paris and Roubaix. It appears she came into contact with activists from the Confédération Générale du Travail (General Confederation of Labour, CGT), namely Charles Malato, who had himself spent much time in London.
Claramunt Creus returned to Spain in early 1898 as a convinced syndicalist. She became a defender of the general strike, propounded by French syndicalism, and at the turn of the century became a vigorous agitator for strike activity across Catalonia. Her syndicalist zeal was undoubtedly conditioned by her travels in Britain and France in 1897-98. In 1901, she became an active collaborator of the newspaper La Huelga General, financed by anarchist pedagogue Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, who had also been to France and Britain in 1897-98. The paper had an unmistakable syndicalist ring. It blended the experiences of British new unionism and of the French CGT with Catalan anarchism. As the name indicates, its raison d’être was the revolutionary general strike that would bring down capitalism and the state.
Claramunt Creus played an important part in the surge of industrial conflict of 1901-02, and La Huelga General served as a mouthpiece for the strike movement. The wave of stoppages was capped by a spectacular general strike in January 1902 that paralysed Barcelona for more than a month. These tactics were clearly shaped by the experiences in labour organisation brought to Spain from France and Britain by exiled activists such as Claramunt Creus. The Spanish experience in turn shaped the radicalisation of British trade unionism. Indeed, the newspaper The General Strike, edited in London by Tarrida del Mármol and Welsh trade unionist Sam Mainwaring, drew its cues from its Spanish namesake. In the early 1910s, Claramunt Creus became involved in organising the revolutionary syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour, CNT), until illness gradually withdrew her from public life. She died in Barcelona in 1931.
Sources: Teresa Abelló Güell, Les relacions internacionals de l’anarquisme català, 1881-1914 (Barcelona: Edicions 62, 1987); María Amalia Pradas Baena, Teresa Claramunt: la “virgen roja” barcelonesa (Barcelona: Virus, 2006); Angel Smith, Anarchism, Revolution and Reaction: Catalan Labour and the Crisis of the Spanish State, 1898-1923 (New York: Berghahn Books); Federico Urales, Mi vida, vol. 1 (Barcelona: Revista Blanca, 1932); Laura Vicente Villanueva, Teresa Claramunt: pionera del feminismo obrerista anarquista (Madrid: Fundación Anselmo Lorenzo, 2006).
Author: Arturo Zoffmann Rodriguez
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