Albert Masó (1918–2001):
Executioner of ‘Captain Narvich’
ALBERT Masó, who was born in Barcelona in 1918 and died in Paris in November 2001, joined the youth group of the Bloc Obrer I Camperol (BOC) in 1934, and took part in the revolutionary general strike in the October of that year against the appointment of fascist ministers to the government.
Masó was recruited to the BOC’s action groups, which were formed to protect strikers against police violence, and which continued with those duties when the BOC united with the Izquierda Comunista, led by Andres Nin, to form the POUM in 1935. He was wounded in the attack on the army barracks on 19 July 1936, the day after Franco’s rising. He served with the POUM forces in Aragon and Huesca and was wounded again, but subsequently returned to the Huesca front. He was involved in the fighting during the Stalinist coup in May 1937, where POUM and CNT militants mounted a barricade to defend the Gracia district against attack by the police and the Stalinists. He observed the demoralising effects on CNT militants of the broadcasts by the anarchist leaders, Montseny García Oliver and Mariano Vásquez, calling on them to abandon the barricades.
On returning to the front, Masó was appointed a lieutenant in the Twenty-Ninth Division (formerly the POUM’s Lenin Column). In June, the POUM Executive was arrested, and Nin was kidnapped, tortured and killed. Masó was jailed from July to November 1937 after pasting up stickers protesting at the coup. A key agent in the frame-up of the POUM was a NKVD agent, ‘Captain Narvich’, probably a Pole, who posed as a sympathiser in his attempts to incriminate the POUM. The POUM, on discovering his intentions, agreed to have a meeting with him. On 10 February 1938, Narvich went to the arranged spot, where he died from three shots to the head by the action group formed by Masó and Lluis Puig. Neither was arrested for what was essentially a retaliation for Nin’s murder and the persecution of the POUM: the Stalinist-controlled police blamed the killing on the tiny Trotskyist group, the SBLE led by Grandizo Munis.
In exile in France, Masó remained a political activist, being arrested by the Germans in 1944, and was involved with French and Italian comrades in Bordigist groups and with Socialisme ou Barbarie. In 1972, he rejoined the POUM, becoming a member of its Executive Committee. He returned to Spain after Franco’s death, and attempted to regroup the POUM with other sections of the revolutionary left. When that failed, he returned to Paris in 1979.