Tribute to our comrade Antonio

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Our comrade Antonio left us this spring, on the eve of the 25th International Congress of the ICC. He was one of the old founding militants of Révolution Internationale (RI - the French section of the ICC) still present in the organisation. The Congress paid a first tribute to him, highlighting "his courage and modesty", both in his personal life and as a militant.

The influence of May 68 and the Communist Left

In 1965, like other students at the University of Madrid who were concerned by the development of workers' struggles in Asturias, he began to involve himself in politics in a context where the class point of view had to find its way through the ambient confusion of the siren songs of the "democratic opposition" to the regime. Antonio distrusted the PCE (Spanish Communist Party) because of its Stalinism, but he also had to learn to distrust the discourse of the handful of Trotskyist and Maoist groups that emerged at that time and which, although appearing more open and "left" than the PCE, were merely a more radical version of the left of capital and just as counter-revolutionary. This interest in revolutionary positions led to his emigration to France, where he arrived in Toulouse in 1967.

His cultural preoccupations - at the time he was doing Spanish-language theatre - were ones he would never abandon, even if they often had to give way to family or political constraints. In the atmosphere of political effervescence, reflection and discussion before 1968, and especially during the events of that year, he found answers to the questions he was asking himself. In this context, he was able from the outset to adopt a genuinely internationalist perspective, interested in the historical experience of the proletariat while avoiding the trap of being locked into an 'immigrant' approach fixed on the situation and history of the country of origin.

As he himself says, the first discussion in France that helped him to break away from the leftist atmosphere in Madrid was the one he had with some of the founding members of Révolution Internationale on the imperialist nature of the Vietnam war, on the necessary defence of proletarian internationalism and workers' solidarity, and this in opposition to the idea of a "revolutionary war" defended by the Trotskyites and Maoists.

He later met Marc Chirik (MC) at a meeting in 1968 with the other founding members of Révolution Internationale and some situationist "militants". MC defended the proletarian nature of the Russian revolution of 1917, the reality of the working class as the revolutionary subject of history and the need for revolutionary organisation. That same year, he also took part in the meeting which approved the first platform of Révolution Internationale, based on the political principles of Internationalismo which MC had inherited from the Gauche Communiste de France and then passed on.

He returned to France in 1969, at a time when the initial core of Révolution Internationale was dwindling in strength as a result of a number of resignations, but also because most of the militants from Toulouse had moved to the capital.

Behind a facade that might appear hesitant, Antonio was driven by a deep commitment and militant conviction…

Although he later said, "I was not a militant", referring to the 1968 period, he returned to full activity in Révolution Internationale in 1970, then in 1972 took part in the regroupment with the Cahiers du Communisme de Conseils de Marseille and the Clermont Ferrand group, from which emerged the 2nd platform of RI as a political group with a territorial base seeking international contacts. In 1975, he took part in the first ICC Congress and remained a militant for the rest of his life. At a time when the class struggle movement in Spain was at its height and the state was speeding up its policy of "democratic transition", the publication of Acción Proletaria (AP) in Spain could no longer be guaranteed.

To deal with this, the ICC decided at its first international congress to maintain regular publication of AP, producing the paper in France and then smuggling it into Spain in the last days of Francoism. His collaboration on this publication was particularly appreciated at the time because of his ability to analyse the democratic manoeuvres of the "transition" in Spain in detail, and to denounce them in depth. Because of his mastery of two languages - he was a Spanish teacher in France - from 1975 he was also involved in the Spanish-language production of the International Review. The comrade always placed the fulfilment of these responsibilities in an international and historical perspective.

In order to organise and systematise Spanish-language intervention and the search for contacts in the Spanish-speaking world, the newly-formed ICC took the initiative of appointing a Spanish Language Commission with Antonio as a member. As a result, Antonio regularly took part in trips to Spain and discussions with contacts, bringing his conviction and assimilation of CCI positions. The comrades who travelled with him were able to appreciate his great sympathy, his vast encyclopaedic knowledge and above all his humour. We'll come back to that!

Antonio took part in virtually all the ICC's international Congresses, where he was part of remarkably efficient simultaneous translation teams - so much so that scientists who had been invited to a Congress session were impressed by the quality of the work. But they were also surprised by Antonio's comments during the breaks, intended to enlighten fellow members of the Spanish, Mexican or Venezuelan delegations on parts of the speech they had misunderstood, .... but they were also surprised by Antonio's use of the microphone to make jokes.

Unwavering loyalty to the organisation and the cause, in the most varied of circumstances
In the difficult moments of the organisation's struggle against the circle spirit and for the party spirit, Antonio always chose to defend the organisation. Although he had a natural tendency to form bonds of affinity with comrades, he never allowed himself to be blindly carried away by "defending his friends" against the organisational principles of the ICC. And when some of them left the organisation with resentments towards it, Antonio maintained his loyalty to the CCI even if this meant distancing himself personally from his former friends.

Antonio's 'Antonionades'

While acknowledging some of his mistakes or negligence, occasional lack of attention or involvement, the comrade often categorised them as his 'Antonionades'. In fact, this category was broad enough to include sketches in which the comrade liked to play the 'clown' for the amusement of us all.

So often, at festive gatherings such as new year, our comrade was able to show off his good humour, never caustic but often teasing, subtle and friendly towards his comrades. Indeed, his repertoire included a number of improvised sketches featuring friends and colleagues from the organisation. In the service of his 'art', he knew how to exploit the subtleties and pitfalls of the French and Spanish languages - sometimes even Occitan. As a result, he could spend hours hosting friendly get-togethers with his comrades and sharing his good humour.

But the 'Antonionade' could also manifest itself in completely different situations, which had nothing festive about them and reflected a particular boldness in our comrade.

For example, in the 1980s while leafleting campaign the docks in Marseille - a citadel for the CGT guardians of capitalist order – an ICC team quickly came up against a patrol of CGT "heavyweights" who wanted to get us out of the way. At times like these, the aim is to hold out as long as possible in order to distribute as many leaflets as possible, which is no easy task, especially when only a trickle of people are allowed in. And Antonio laughed, to everyone's amazement, "ah but I can't give up, I have a mandate that I have to fulfil. I've got to finish this distribution!”

The stunned effect this produced in the ranks of the union squad enabled us to gain precious minutes of  time for the distribution, at the end of which the flow of dockworkers entering the workplace protected us from intimidation.
Nevertheless, his militant life was not made up of Antonionades alone, as shown by his regular involvement in the life of the organisation and the fact that it is the same Antonio who was involved in an episode defending a demonstration against attempts by the cops to break into it to take away a young man who had been guilty of spray painting a wall. On this occasion, the cops were thwarted[1].

In his professional life, some of his 'antonionades' were pure humour, as reported and illustrated by one of his university colleagues who came to his funeral and who also emphasised the extent to which Antonio respected his students: one day, when the students seemed not to be listening to his lecture, chatting amongst themselves in the lecture hall, Antonio made no particular remark but interrupted himself. The surprised students stopped their chatter, wondering what was going on. Then Antonio spoke again, telling them: "Today, I feel like I'm in a bar in Spain. In bars in Spain, the TV is on all the time, but nobody watches it or listens to it. But if someone does turn it off, there's always someone there to say, 'Who turned the TV off? Today I'm the bar's TV". What tact and pedagogy!

Antonio, a loving father and companion, committed in the face of adversity

He first had a daughter who has always supported his militancy and maintained political sympathy with the ICC. His second child was born with a severe physical and intellectual disability. In order to be able to communicate with him, Antonio learnt sign language and was always careful to ensure that his son's disability did not keep him away from everything and everyone. And, together, the family succeeded! Not least because of Antonio's unwavering commitment. Our comrade's commitment to his family was even greater when his partner became seriously ill. For years, they fought side by side against a cancer that she finally succumbed to, exhausted by the battle.

The tension between Antonio's personal and militant responsibilities was stretched to the limit on many occasions. As he said himself, he was several times on the point of abandoning the political struggle but, in the end, he kept his loyalty to himself, his family and the organisation, directing his life and the care of his family on the basis of what was his passion and conviction: communist militancy.

We would like to add here that the life of this comrade, who managed to maintain his militancy for more than half a century (from 1968 to 2023) against all kinds of pressures, is an example of what we must pass on to the new generation of militants.

Although for long periods he was forced to reduce his militant involvement, in recent years he had been able to rediscover the flame of that passion by taking part in joint meetings with comrades from AP (Spain), RI (France) and Rivoluzione Internazionale (Italy), and getting involved in organisational responsibilities.

Another of our comrade's paradoxes, or an expression of his great modesty or lack of self-confidence: on several occasions he told comrades that he found it difficult to internalise the meaning of our concept of "putting militancy at the centre of our lives". Yet that's what he managed to do throughout his life!

Antonio's last "Antonionade".
Shortly after the death of his partner, Antonio had a heart attack which he dealt with on his own by going to A&E in the middle of the night. A day later, he emerged with his arteries unblocked and ready for use again. It turned out that he had other heart problems, which were subsequently treated and not considered critical, but which may nevertheless have been the cause of his sudden death a short time later. When we urged him to keep us more regularly informed about his state of health, he replied that, in his home village, some people who said "I'll keep you informed" really meant "I'll keep you out of the loop". Another Antonionade! The last one.

Even if the comrade was concerned not to 'disturb' others, he was nevertheless perfectly aware - and had already proved it - of the social and political need to call on the organisation and its militants whenever necessary. In fact, he kept us regularly informed about his health.

However, we were all surprised by his "hasty departure". Farewell comrade and friend.
On the other hand, we were not surprised by the large number of people who attended our comrade's funeral, including some of his former colleagues, who gave touching, but not surprising, testimonies about Antonio's great respect for his students.

The ICC will be organising a political tribute to our comrade Antonio in the coming months. Comrades wishing to take part should write to the ICC and we will inform them of the date and venue.

ICC 8.8.23


Militant memory