I crossed paths with Jack Devlin two times in 1936 and ordinarily I should not have remembered either event. The first time we met was in Paris, where even with a proper introduction by the inestimable André Malraux, he appeared modest and impressed me as just another American traveler, of which there were so many thousands who had come to the Boulevard Montparnasse that year.
A few months later, I saw him again for a second and last time on the front lines in Spain. It was pleasant to see a familiar face in a surrounding so bleak, but I can say with assurance that we were never more than acquaintances. We saw each other a time or two there. We were both caught in that eerie twilight of existence that they called trench warfare which was marked by an equal dose of boredom and the sporadic mayhem of stray bullets and easy death.
Even among the Anarchists of Spain, whose cause he embraced, he would ultimately have been cast out and purged. I was wounded there that spring and it took me six months to recover to full health at my home near London. In that time I had a recurring nightmare that I was placed before a Spanish court martial and convicted of treason. I was in Barcelona and there was no one to defend me. I was at the mercy of the government prosecutor and I was scared I would die. Jack Devlin would understand.
Devlin understood the ideologues of his time better than I did. He speaks of them with such familiarity and unusual intimacy in his memoir. He had already discovered the nature of his demons and enemies. Devlin would have understood the question I heard in my sleep, “Are you Anarchista or Bolsheviki? Yes or no?” Because I had never heard the question before, I didn’t know how to reply. “Are you Anarchista or Bolsheviki,” my inquisitor demanded and I knew that the wrong answer would mean I would die. “I have come to defend the revolution,” I said and the voice in my sleep mocked me. “That is the wrong answer comrade. Anarchista or Bolsheviki? That is your only choice.” “Are you Anarchista or Bolsheviki? Sí o no?” I was lost. I didn't know the proper answer.
When Jack Devlin died there was no obituary in the Times of London. Jack Devlin is a man who has been effectively written out of history.
I was at the mercy of the government prosecutor and I was scared I would die. “Are you Anarchista or Bolsheviki,” my inquisitor demanded and I knew that the wrong answer would mean I would die
There was no assurance that I would get out of Spain alive. If history had been different, Jack Devlin might have been me. But in the history of that time, Jack Devlin does not exist.
If history had been different, Jack Devlin might have been a hero of the Spanish Civil War.
I was at the mercy of the government prosecutor and I was scared I would die.
“Are you Anarchista or Bolsheviki,” my inquisitor demanded and I knew that the wrong answer would mean I would die
Jack Devlin, an American in Paris. Anti-fascist. Anti-KGB. Smuggled arms for the Anarchists in Spain.
The War Ministry in Madrid was supplied by the KGB, by Russia. The Durruti Brigades, the Anarchists were supplied by the Jack Devlin front organization "Barcelona Iron."
Needless to say, we were spys for the
Durruti Brigades, the Anarchistas.
Barcelona was a city of death. There was disappearance and assassination. Civil war between the Comunistas and the Anarchistas would come.
The Barcelona Iron office on the Ramblas was filled with rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition and enough food for weeks. We were ready for the siege. Only two had made it. Jack Devlin and Juliette Grunfeld, a veteran of the German underground.
Ever since the death of Commander Durruti, Juliette had wanted to take revenge and kill KGB chief Viktor Karpov. Viktor Karpov had ordered Durruti’s assassination. “I don’t like this," she said. "I don’t like waiting. They think we’ve lost our nerve. Let’s do it now!"
I sat at our Krupp version of an eight-bore Gatling gun that we aimed down the Paseo, the lower Ramblas at Plaza Colon. I could see the whole street. Barricades were up and there was fighting below.
“I have no regrets whatever this day brings,” Juliette said. "We should have attacked first. I warned you. You don't fuck Stalin and expect to live."
Juliette tried to reach Mariana de la Cruz, the Justicia in Madrid on the shortwave. But there was nothing. She moved back to her place at the Krupp and watched over the Paseo. Mariana was our last hope.
Ma-Ri-An-Na . . . Ma-Ri-An-Na. That was the name chanted by crowds in Barcelona. No-Pa-Sa-Ran. They Shall Not Pass. No-Pa-Sa-Ran. Marina de la Cruz, Supreme Court Justice, was the voice of the revolution in Spain.
There are aeroplanes resting on the runway in Toulouse,” Mariana de la Cruz, La Justicia wrote to Jack Devlin in Paris. “Steal them and deliver them to us in España. Each man knows for himself why he lives and for what he will risk death.
André Malraux ordered the Champagne. “I envy you Devlin. It would be an honor to serve in your command. To the day I join you in Spain, Devlin,” he said. “To the year of triumph.”
There will never be another city in another country at another time like Barcelona. It was a sight to remember. The powerless had taken hold. There was a new law. No Property, No Bosses, No Money, No God.” All Authority Is Condemned To History!
“You look different from how I imagined,” Mariana de la Cruz spoke to Devlin. “I was certain you would be killed. I want to know everything that happened. So many died.”
Every morning I looked into the face of an Egyptian Queen. Her eyes were slanted and set wide apart. Her nose was long and narrow and her cheeks were hollowed.
When she walked on to the Gran Via she became the Justicia, their Mariana de la Cruz, but before the sun rose, while we were together behind thick walls of her private garden, the Justicia was mine.
Emma Goldman was in Spain. Red Emma was architect of what was called La Bomba Denuncia, the behind-the-lines assault on the KGB and the Communists from Madrid.
We declare war on Moscow,” Emma said. “It's almost over now, Devlin. Do you hear what I am saying? The war is almost over. It's our only hope. From here on out we make the rules.”
Emma preened as the wind blew across her face. “What do you think the Russian's are thinking? They're planning to assassinate me and I want them to remember my face.”
The Bolsheviki had come north to Barcelona. There was no stopping the plague of Madrid. The Guardia marched up the Ramblas. They were coming for us one by one.
Juliette Grunfeld began readying the Krupp, aiming its nose toward the barricades, adjusting its sight. “They'll be coming tonight, Dev.” She said.
“Come Dev. I can see them now,” Juliette said. They were moving small teams down the promenade. We had only a few minutes left.
Mariana was staring down at the battlefield surrounding the town of Teruel. It was a ruined place. “We will die here,” she said. “Others will die in Barcelona.”
“War compresses time. Devlin. It steals us all,” The Justicia said. “We are bundled together and taken away. We're here and then we're not. In wartime everything is lost.”
The fighting on the Ramblas had begun. “I can see better now,” Juliette said clearing the last ragged shards of glass from the windowframe. “It gives me a better view for the fight.” She began readying the Krupp.
The Krupp eclipsed war. It was part science and part fiction, a weapon designed in a German imagination. Juliette fit snugly into its harness, black metal against white skin like a custom built future machine.
“Come closer hombres,” Juliette whispered to her enemy. “We will not fire. It will give them courage, more willing to risk death. Turn on the light. Let them see my shadow. I want to draw their fire. I want to see the sparks. I want to see the Bolsheviki.
“You can see their bayonets are drawn and shine in the moonlight.” Juliette hugged the machine, her arms in its stirrups and her fingers wrapped tightly around its grooved black handles.
Juliette squeezed the monster's handles tighter and the big gun burst like a rogue canon and she fired down blind. ¡Fuego! !Fuego! Red and yellow flames blew from its barrel. “Aaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!! Juliette's mouth froze open. “Aaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!! She screamed. Exhaust blew back into her face and her eyes shown white in the flames. Animal sounds came from her insides. I thought she had been hit. I thought she would die.
The battle on the Ramblas was now over. We walked down ten flights of stairs onto the Paseo past the uniformed Guardia we had fought the night before, past the burned artillery placements at the Plaza Puerta de la Paz and made our way to the boat for Toulon. The Bolsheviki had taken Barcelona.