Federica Montseny

February 12, 1905 - January 14, 1994

 

Source: Wikipedia 

Federica Montseny Mañé was a Spanish anarchist, intellectual and Minister of Health during the social revolution that occurred in Spain parallel to the Civil War. She is also known as a novelist and essayist.

Early years

Federica Montseny Mañé was born on 12 February 1905 in Madrid, Spain. Montseny was, in her own words, the daughter of a family of old anarchists; her father was the anti-authoritarian writer and propagandist Juan Montseny Carret (alias Federico Urales); and her mother, Teresa Mañé Miravet (alias Soledad Gustavo), was herself an anarchist activist. Her parents were the co-editors of the anarchists journal, La Revista Blanca (1898–1905). In 1912 her parents returned to their native Catalonia and later they established a publishing company specialized in libertarian literature.

Montseny joined the anarchist labor union CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) and wrote for anarchist journals such as Solidaridad ObreraTierra y Libertad and Nueva Senda. In 1927 Montseny joined the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI).

With Josep Esgleas Jaume (alias Germinal Esgleas), she had three children: Vida (1933), Germinal (1938) and Blanca (1942).

Spanish Civil War and Minister of Health

During the Spanish Civil War, Montseny supported the republican government. She rejected the violence in the republican held territory: "a lust for blood inconceivable in honest man before".In November 1936 Francisco Largo Caballero appointed Montseny as Minister of Health. In doing so, she became the first woman in Spanish history to be a cabinet minister.She was one of the first female ministers in Western Europe (but preceded by Danish Minister of Education, Nina Bang and Miina Sillanpää of Finland), and as minister she aimed to transform public health to meet the needs of the poor and working class. To that end, she supported decentralized, locally responsive and preventative health care programs that mobilized the entire working class for the war effort. She was influenced by the anarchist sex reform movement, which since the 1920s had focused on reproductive rights, and was minister in 1936 when Dr. Félix Martí Ibáñez, the anarchist director general of Health and Social Assistance of the Generalitat de Catalunya, issued the Eugenic Reform of Abortion, a decree effectively making abortion on demand legal in Catalonia.

Given her family's libertarian tradition, the decision to enter the Popular Front government was especially difficult. Although joining the government was a move encouraged by the anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), this collaboration with the government in order to present a united front to the Fascist threat posed by Francisco Franco's rebel armies, was widely questioned during and long after the war was over. Notably, she was involved in polemics with Emma Goldman, and the recipient of the harsh criticism in Camillo Berneri's open letter of 1937. For many anarchists, the topic of collaboration – with both Marxists and governments – is still a contentious one.

Exile

She moved to France in 1939 where she wrote many books, only a fraction of which were political. Although she returned to Spain in 1977, she died on 14 January 1994 in Toulouse, at 88.

 

 

Quotes by Federica Montseny

 

"The love of liberty and the sense of human dignity are the basic elements of the Anarchist creed."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"If all our comrades of Europe, America and other countries, who do not understand what we are doing to Spanish Anarchism, would come to Spain, we could then see how they would react."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"We need no messiah and no sterile conception of a god menacing us with hell and purgatory."
-- Federica Montseny


"The struggle is so great that the triumph over fascism alone is worth the sacrifice of our lives."
-- Federica Montseny


"Men are as we have always known them, neither better nor worse from the hearts of rogues there springs a latent honesty, from the depths of honest men there emerges a brutish appetite - a thirst for extermination, a desire for blood."
-- Federica Montseny


"Prostitution presents a moral, economic and social problem that cannot be resolved juridically."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"But we must create in each person a sense of responsibility in order that each one of us can have the right to enjoy all his rights."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"Never will the Anarchists in Spain be made to suffer as they have been and are in Russia."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"Authority is something from which we are constantly subtracting, of which there remains always a residue, and which we attempt to make smaller and smaller."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"In order to fully realise our aspirations, we must create in the masses of the people the sense of sacrifice and responsibility that has been the characteristic of the anarchist movement throughout its historic development in Spain."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"In Spain, we should have enough intelligence, enough sense of individual and collective responsibility to do for ourselves that which would be imposed upon us by a dictatorship."
-- Federica Montsen

 

"There are Anarchists in other parts of the world who are unable to, comprehend the position of the Spanish Anarchists. I do not pretend to censor these Anarchists."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"We have confirmed something we only knew in theory, namely that revolution, in which uncontrolled and uncontrollable forces operate imperiously, is blind and destructive, grandiose and cruel."
-- Federica Montseny

 

"The people themselves, and only the people, determine the rhythm of our fight." 
-- Federica Montseny

 

"I wish to say that we Anarchists have never changed our position. We are Anarchists as of old and still pursue the same ideals."
-- Federica Montseny

 

There is, therefore, no solution possible other than an economy directed by the workers through their organisations of control-through the workers' syndicates.
--
Federica Montseny

 

"We tried many times before to speed on the social revolution in Spain; attempted to stir up the feelings of the people and to raise the banner of Libertarian Communism."
-- Federica Montseny


Quote source: BrainyQuote

Books by Federica Montseny

Photo: Unsplash / Joao Silas / CC0

 

Federica Montseny wrote quite a few books.  However, her books have not been translated into English.  A few of her books published in Spanish can be found on Kobo and Amazon.

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