Obituari: Marcelino Garcia (1893-1977)

By Paul Avrich
Freedom, June 11 ’77

WITH THE passing of Marcelino Garcia on April 1, 1977, the Spanish anarchist movement in America lost one of its most dedicated and articulate spokesmen. The son of a Spanish socialist, Garcia was born in 1893 in the village of San Martin, near Oviedo in Asturias, ”where all the rebels come from,” he remarked. ”As far as I’m concerned,” he said, explaining his attraction to anarchism, ”I was born an anarchist. It was in my nature, my emotions. I didn’t have to read about it – it was within me.” As a boy of seven or eight he already admired the anarchists. ”I saw in them men who were willing to fight for the poor. Angiollo, for example. He once came to my town. He was my angel!”

Garcia came to the United States at the age of thirteen. At fifteen, he was a miner in the coal Fields of West Virginia. But soon he took to the road, ”like a gypsy,” as he put it. Amoving from place to place, he worked at a variety of jobs, from stevedore and carpenter to furnace-stoker and elevator-operator. By 1925 he had settled in New York, which he came to regard as his favourite spot on earth, apart from the town where he was born.

It was in New Yorj that Garcia met Pedro Esteve, editor of Cultura Obrera and the foremost Spanish anarchist in America. As a young man, before emigrating to the New World, Esteve had accompanied Errico Malatesta on an evangelical tour of Spain, and Garcia considered him ”the greatest influence in my life.” After Esteve’s untimely death in 1925, Garcia emerged as a leading figure within the Cultura Obrera Group. For more than two decades he edited Cultura Proletaria, which succeeded Cultura Obrera as the principal Spanish anarchist journal in America. He was also a popular speaker at anarchist picnics and meetings. An intense figure on the platform, with jet black hair and flowing black moustasche, he spoke in a quiet, lilting voice that could rise to a thundering roar, holding his audience spellbound.

During the 1920s and 30s, Garcia was active in the campaign to save Sacco and Vanzetti, in the Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista, and in other libertarian causes. In 1937 he spent several weeks in Spain (where he met Emma Goldman) and provided an eyewitness description of the social revolution to the readers of Cultura Proletaria. However, with the victory of General Franco and the outbreak of world war, the Spanish anarchist movement in America fell into decline.

1952 Cultura Proletaria suspended publication, and a few years later Garcia’s beloved companion developed a fatal blood clot which left her paralysed. Giving up his job in New York, Garcia moved to a small house in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, where he nursed his wife until her death after five years of suffering. Tragedy struck again in 1975 when his son, who lived with him at Palmerton, was killed in an accident. Last April 1, Marcelino himself passed away in his eighty-fourth year, bringing to an end his long and active career as a libertarian socialist.

Gentle yet militant, jovial yet deeply serious about his cause, Garcia exemplified the highest ideals of the movement to which he devoted his life. When I visited him at Palmerton in 1971, he spoke of the prospects for a libertarian future. Although conditions had changed since he entered the movement, he kept faith with his exalted ideal: ”Anarchism has a glorious future. In three or four years it will rise again in Spain. The doors are opening.”

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