Letters from Barcelona
Pietro Fancelli was born on 5 May 1907 in Città di Castello (Perugia province). A joiner by trade, he became a Communist. In 1924 he went to France, and later on he returned to serve in the army as an infantryman. Nothing is known about him until 1936, when he arrived in Barcelona, where he joined the POUM militia and stayed for some days in the Hotel Falcón. On 25 August 1936 he left Barcelona for the Saragossa front. He fought as a POUM militiaman for some nine months before being wounded in his left eye on 12 May 1937. He remained in Spain for at least up to 24 August 1937. Nothing is known about him after that date. Some sources refer to him as a Trotskyist, but this may well be because he was in the POUM. It is much more probable that he was a Maximalist (cf. p.218 n125) who, like many other members of the Socialist Party (Maximalists), had gone to Spain and joined the POUM.
Research work is now being carried out in Italy to discover whether Pietro Fancelli is still alive and, if so, where, and to obtain more information about him. These letters were passed to us by the Italian researcher Eros Francescangeli, and were translated into English by Paolo Casciola.
1. Letter to his Sister, 14 August 1936
It is with great pleasure that I’m able to give you some news about myself. You cannot imagine the joy I feel in finding myself amongst a multitude of people who have the same ideals as I have, and with whom I march hand in hand.
At the moment I am in Barcelona, in the Hotel Falcón. We will remain in Barcelona for some days, but none of us know for how long. In any case, we are living through unforgettable hours. I’m a little bit uneasy with the food, but it’s a case of accustoming ourselves to everything. And after all, I repeat, the great joy I feel in being here for the victory of our ideals makes me forget about these trifles.
You should try and make our mother understand all this little by little. Try to encourage her, and make her realise that we are fighting for the victory of the Spanish people, which is at the same time a victory for the international proletariat.
Here in Barcelona, the inhabitants are calm, as if nothing has happened. Only we of the workers’ militia have permission to march armed. In the streets of Barcelona all you can see are thousands of vehicles of the workers’ militias, which ensure food supplies to the population.
In Catalonia, everything is in the hands of the proletarian government. As I told you, we are waiting for the order to leave for Saragossa, a difficult position to win for Spain.
I won’t dwell on that, but I’ll send you a letter before leaving for the front. I will stop here, and I send you my most sincere greetings and kisses. Please convey to our mummy the most heartfelt greetings from her unforgettable son Pierre. Dear greetings and kisses from me to Lucia.
My address is the following: Pierre Fancelli, Hotel Falcón, Ramblas 5, CUIRA, Barcelona, Spain. If you can go to meet Carini, tell him, if they have not left yet, to come through Giustizia e Libertà which, as Tortora said, will provide for all expenses. As many Maximalists as possible should come here. And tell him to convey greetings from Castello and I to all my comrades.
2. Letter to Caprini and Friends, 23 August 1936
Dearest Caprini and Friends
I am sending you some news about me, which is good news, and I hope you all are fine, too. We have been in Barcelona for 10 days, and we are very eagerly waiting to leave. Our departure has been scheduled for tomorrow, 24 August. Our destination is the environs of Saragossa. The battle for the seizure of Saragossa will be very hard, but our battle for the conquest of that town, as well as of the rest of Spain, will be accomplished day by day.
On 19 August, at 11 a.m., we attended a meeting in the Tarragona barracks which was presided over by Marceau Pivert, during which the POUM leader Gorkin delivered a speech. In the afternoon, at 5 p.m., we took part in a great party in honour of 350 POUM militia men who were leaving for Majorca Island. You cannot imagine the enthusiasm and joy of those who were leaving, as well as the huge crowd that had come to see them parading along the main avenue of the Ramblas up to the station, an uninterrupted chain of people applauding them. There are neither priests nor nuns any longer, and the churches that have not been burnt have had their doors sealed. (The punishment of God fell upon that gang of black crows, after all!) I hope that these parasites will soon disappear from the entire world. They are more harmful than those on the radio.
On Sunday, 16 August I met Biso and the others from Menton along the Ramblas. But they are in the Petralbes barracks of the FAI, 16 kilometres away from Barcelona, and for us of the POUM it is difficult to enter there. Many of our comrades are there, and if they wish to join the POUM militia, they find it difficult to remain in the militias of the FAI. At the moment the POUM is the only organisation to have a well-defined and very clear line in Catalonia, and to earn much sympathy from the masses, and it is for that reason that the Anarcho-Syndicalists fear being bypassed. However, we completely agree with them with regard to the struggle against Fascism. In addition to that, I can tell you that yesterday’s theories are as different from today’s practices as day is from night. They too have bowed to the fact that without discipline it is impossible to do anything, and that yesterday’s theory was a utopia that cannot be carried out in today’s practice.
We are passing through the first phase of the revolution, and we will not stop at that, we will go through to the end, that is, after having done away with Fascism, we will make the truly proletarian revolution, that is to say, a complete disappearance of bourgeois democracy, which is democracy only by name.
Dear Amadeo, you should try to discover whether there is anyone who is going to travel to Barcelona, in order to give us some news, since it is very difficult to know by mail whether the others who were supposed to come here have departed or not.
Today, Sunday, is the last day we spending in Barcelona. In the afternoon we will go to see a bullfight that has been organised for the benefit of the workers’ militias. Please let me know if my mother has come to see you, and tell me what she told you. I will stop writing here, and I send you our most sincere greetings, and we send greetings to all our comrades and friends in general, to you, Triano, Beppino, Mazzetti and Frianchi.
Updated by ETOL: 31 January 2009