A middle-class intellectual from Guadalcanal (Seville), Pedro Vallina Martínez became involved in the Hispanic-Anglosphere after being radicalised by the stark inequalities of the Andalusian countryside. As a young man, he moved to the Spanish capital to study medicine. In Madrid, he and his comrades were impressed by the success of Catalan anarchists in organising mass strikes in 1901-02. They attempted to emulate them. They caught the attention of the authorities and Vallina Martínez decided to flee to France in October 1902. In Paris, he became involved in the Confédération Générale du Travail (General Confederation of Labour, CGT). Police arrested Vallina Martínez on the eve of 1 May 1906, when the syndicalists had called a general strike whose momentum alarmed the French government. He was deported to England along with a group of Russian radicals.
The exiled anarchists of London welcomed Vallina Martínez and helped him find his feet in the city. German libertarian Rudolf Rocker and, naturally, fellow Spaniard Tarrida del Mármol were especially helpful. Vallina Martínez resumed his medical studies at University College London. He became an active member of the city’s cosmopolitan anarchist community. Vallina Martínez met the prestigious Catalan anarchist pedagogue Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia in June 1909 during the latter’s visit to London. Upon his return to Spain, Ferrer i Guàrdia was arrested and blamed for the riots that shook Barcelona that summer. Vallina Martínez was subsequently involved in the powerful solidarity campaign of the autumn demanding his release, which mobilised London’s left-wing solidarity networks, made up of anarchists, trade unionists, freethinkers, anti-colonialists, and republicans.
During this campaign, Vallina Martínez mingled with leading British labour activists. He was already familiar with the Spanish and French labour movements, and displayed keen interest for the powerful British trade unions and reported regularly to the Spanish anarchist press on the exploits of organised labour in Britain. Indeed, in the years before the First World War, especially in 1911-13, the British labour movement lurched left in a context of social effervescence and of upswing in industrial conflict. Vallina Martínez was close to left-wing British trade unionists such as Tom Mann and Guy Bowman. These entanglements gave impetus to the fusion continental anarchism and militant British trade unionism that came to be known as revolutionary syndicalism.
Vallina Martínez was one of the participants of the 1913 international syndicalist conference held in London, which gathered delegates from across Europe. Vallina Martínez was impressed and inspired by the London conference and the industrial struggles he witnessed in 1911-13. Upon his return to Spain after the outbreak of the First World War, he became involved in the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour, CNT). After the war, it emerged as the largest syndicalist organisation in the world. In 1923, Vallina Martínez joined its national committee. He was a leading cenetista (CNT militant) until Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War. After that, he went into exile in Mexico, where he resided until his death in 1970.
Sources: Constance Bantman, The French anarchists in London, 1880-1914 : exile and transnationalism in the first globalisation (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013); Antoni Dalmau i Ribalta, Per la causa dels humils: una biografia de Tarrida del Mármol (Barcelona: L’Abadia de Montserrat, 2015); Rudolf Rocker, En la borrasca (Buenos Aires: Americalee, 1949); Wayne Thorpe, “The Workers Themselves”: revolutionary syndicalism and international labour (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1989); Pedro Vallina, Mis memorias (Caracas: Tierra y Libertad, 1968).
Author: Arturo Zoffmann Rodriguez
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