“Introduction to vegetarianism: Garlic, Lemon and Onion” is a 30 page palm-size leaflet written in Spanish with 24 drawings [Introducción al vegetarismo: El ajo, el Limon y la Cebolla]. The title is misleading as the book does not refer at all to dietary health and naturopathy. It is a primer on explosives and the art of cleaning, using and repairing the famous British WWII 9 mm submachine gun STEN, among other weapons: “This booklet does not pretend to be a comprehensive guide on explosives. What we intend is to instruct the neophytes in explosives that they may incidentally come across”. This is a quite clear and straightforward description of the contents, one page after a kind and considerate cover opening page on vegetarianism.
Illegal pornographic comic books produced in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s were known as “Tijuana bibles” or “eight-pagers”. Garlic, Lemon and Onion is to guerrilla warfare what Blondie was to porn: explicit contents concealed behind an ordinary and conventional cover. The famous front-page of the daily-life of the smart, sweet, and responsible Blondie designed by Chic Young has been used many times to conceal unequivocal porn (http://books.google.fr/books/about/Tijuana_Bibles.html?id=3tTNwjUwLAsC&redir_esc=y). The art of cooking with garlic, lemon and onion is certainly such a remarkable disguise for an activist and illegal textbook on explosives.
Like many Tijuana Bibles at the time, there is very little indication of the author and the date of publication. It is somewhat hazardous to tell when this utterly clandestine brochure was produced, printed, or by whom. However, the weaponry and explosives highlighted in this eight-pager of armed struggle can be a first clue to identifying the period of publication. Garlic, Lemon and Onion is all about the most common, low production cost and therefore effective insurgency weapons used by The British Commandos and resistance groups during WWII.
The leaflet starts with one of the simplest plastic explosives with its distinctive smell of almonds: Nobel’s Explosive No. 808, extensively used for sabotage missions during WWII. The second half of the book is all about the famous British STEN gun designed in 1940, the quite recognisable German stick grenade Model 24 (Model 24 Stielhandgranate) produced and used from WWI until the end of WWII, and the British 36M Mills bomb also known as “pineapple” or “lemon” hand-grenade and used quite extensively during the Spanish civil war and WWII. When looking for a more precise date of publication, the title can be a clue as well. It is in 1953 that the famous dietician and naturist Nicolas Capo (1899-1976) published his first successful book on healthy food: “My clinical observations on the lemon, garlic and onion”.
Garlic, Lemon and Onion: is there a better title to mask such subversive contents? It is undoubtedly not as plain-spoken and perhaps as candid – or naïve – as the anarchist cookbook written by the young William Powell and published by Lyle Stuart in the USA in 1971. Garlic, Lemon and Onion is not like the anarchist cookbook, a set of recipes on how to do explosives, producing home-made LSD or tips and tricks on how to spy on telecommunications but a reminder of how to use explosives, STEN gun and hand-grenades. The shape of the booklet, the tone and the contents are not so different from a classic military textbook summarising the basics of what every single soldier should know about explosives: quantity, safety and blast effects. Nowhere in the text there is a mention of guerrilla warfare, political activism, insurrection or direct action. Yet, these somewhat banal military materials are hidden behind the veil of healthy food.
These clandestine, subversive and disguised technical leaflets are quite rare. Pieces to be concealed and passed discretely from hand to hand, these brief clandestine technical textbooks are nowhere to be found, even in the biggest repositories specialising in labour and clandestine political movements such as the International contemporary Documentation Library (BDIC) in Nanterre, the Centre for Research in Social Alternatives (CRAS) in Toulouse or the International Research Centre on Anarchism (CIRA) in Marseille. Classic propaganda-type brochures and pamphlets are easily found and they have been – for most of them – dutifully preserved in repositories across Europe. Yet, the technical and practical ones are not. How many of them have been circulating in the activist milieu, whether in France, Spain or Italy between the 1950s and the 1980s? This is a question without a definitive answer. Still, the circulation of these booklets is a question to be asked for one can consider these leaflets as concrete support for and an interesting point of departure to study the transmission of violent tactics and the diffusion of a particular knowledge within activist and insurrectional milieus.
I was introduced to the remarkable “Garlic, Lemon and Onion” by “Bernard” who is living in the South West of France, in the vicinity of Toulouse. Bernard is a charming eccentric man. He is not a political activist at all. He inherited this leaflet from his grandfather “Edmond” among other anarchist documents written in Spanish and in French. The grandfather’s life is really interesting and is of paramount importance to understanding not only the leaflet but also the context of its production and dissemination.
Edmond was a young pacifist and draft-evader during WWI who found refuge in Spain. When the Spanish civil war started in 1936, he joined the anarchist ranks in Catalonia. After the victory of Francisco Franco’s forces over the Spanish Republic in April 1939, Edmond, like half a million combatants and ordinary people who feared Franco’s repression, fled to France (a period known as the Retirada, the retreat). Unlike most of the Spaniards fleeing Francoist Spain, Edmond did not spend some time in an internment and refugee camp set up by the French government after the fall of Catalonia (http://books.google.fr/books?id=SpT0cY3gLYsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=L%27exil+des+r%C3%A9publicains+espagnols+en+France:+de+la+Guerre+civile+%C3%A0+la+mort+de+Franco&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6V3OU-WDPOa40QWCqYG4Cg&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAA#) (http://books.google.fr/books?id=7AuKhPTU3BIC&pg=PA333&dq=Culturas+del+exilio+espa%C3%B1ol+entre+las+alambradas.+Literatura+y+memoria+de+los+campos+de+concentraci%C3%B3n+en+Francia&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Fl7OU8CtIqTK0QWdpYHoAQ&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAA#). He found refuge in Toulouse. The Retirada was quickly followed by the German invasion and occupation of northern France and the creation of the Vichy regime in the central-southern zone, which provided many exiles like Edmond with a new and unexpected chance to take up arms against Franco’s Nazi benefactor (http://books.google.fr/books?id=xGhpAAAAMAAJ&q=La+red+de+evasi%C3%B3n+del+Grupo+Ponz%C3%A1n.+Anarquistas+en+la+guerra+secreta+contra+el+franquismo+y+el+nazismo+(1936%E2%80%931944)&dq=La+red+de+evasi%C3%B3n+del+Grupo+Ponz%C3%A1n.+Anarquistas+en+la+guerra+secreta+contra+el+franquismo+y+el+nazismo+(1936%E2%80%931944)&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XV7OU5P0OPGT0QXoqYDIAQ&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAA).
After Liberation in 1945, like many of his comrades, Edmond was convinced that Franco would promptly suffer the same fate as his erstwhile Nazi-fascist allies. Unfortunately, the Cold War set the tone for new global alliances, opening up a long and troubled period for the exiles as Francoism acquired new international respectability. Not only were hopes that the dictatorship would fall in the short term dashed, but the re-opening of diplomatic relations in the late 1950s between the governments of Paris and Madrid endangered the status of all the “Red” and “Black” Spaniards in France (http://books.google.fr/books?id=qPErAQAAIAAJ&q=El+exilio+fue+una+fiesta.+Memoria+informal+de+un+espa%C3%B1ol+en+Par%C3%ADs&dq=El+exilio+fue+una+fiesta.+Memoria+informal+de+un+espa%C3%B1ol+en+Par%C3%ADs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7l7OU9aCNdG10QWQxIGYCA&ved=0CCEQ6AEwAA).
The experience of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist movement in exile in France during the Francoist years (1939-1975) is now well-documented (http://books.google.fr/books?id=teP9AAAAQBAJ&pg=PA140&lpg=PA140&dq=Anarchism,+Franco%E2%80%99s+Dictatorship,+and+Postwar+Europe&source=bl&ots=MpaHg7kuK6&sig=bkwbGr14NCE5Xu7QA5aV8pMmpys&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XF_OU9ytCI6Y1AWekYB4&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAQ#). It was an experience largely centred on the city of Toulouse in the South West of France, no far away from Catalonia. An experience made of extraordinary alternative and avant-garde artistic creations, of agitprop, fundraising for the active anti-Francoist resistance in Catalonia, Basque country and Galicia but also of political crisis and generational ruptures in the movement (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/41325181?uid=3738016&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21104515598283). Veterans of the Spanish civil war, former prisoners of the French internment camps, ex-combatants of the Resistance, experienced anarchists, Republicans, socialists and Basque nationalists brought into contact with young activists from various backgrounds and mainly born in the aftermath of WWII. The community evolving in Toulouse was eclectic and fragmented, far from constituting an homogeneous body. Some of them were deeply involved in coordinating armed struggle against Franco’s Spain, re-creating the structures of the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) and the FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica), providing financial support and playing as such the role of an active diaspora. Others were tired of action, interrogating the reasons of the fight and leaving their former appetite for combat the Spanish dictatorship to younger generations. Edmond, the latest owner of Garlic, Lemon and Onion, died a couple of weeks before the execution in the Carabanchel prison (Madrid) of the two young anarchists, Francisco Granados Gata and Joaquin Delgado Martinez, in August 1963. Edmond, born at the end of the 19th century, moved by the anarchist experience in Barcelona, died before the resurgence of the spirit of insurrection and “direct action” in Toulouse with the creation of the Iberian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación, MIL) in 1971 (http://books.google.fr/books/about/El_Movimiento_Ib%C3%A9rico_de_Liberaci%C3%B3n_Sa.html?id=iCcHAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y) and the Revolutionary Internationalist Action Groups (Groupes d’action révolutionnaire internationalistes – Grupos de Acción Revolucionaria Internacionalista, GARI) in 1973. Edmond knew well the anarcho-syndicalist milieu of Toulouse. How close was he to the movement? Bernard his grandson cannot tell precisely. What we can tell is that Edmond died before the time when a new generation of anti-Francoist activists, born in France in the aftermath of WWII, were summoning up his experience, this experience of the Spanish civil war, of the Maquis (French resistance) and its Agrupaciones Guerrilleras (Guerrilla Groups)(http://www.casadellibro.com/libro-maquis-historia-de-la-guerrilla-antifranquista/9788484604808/1073039) and calling for the final insurrection against the Spanish dictator.
Garlic, Lemon and Onion is to be appreciated within that political saga. An ordinary saga for many Spanish republicans and anarchists, who fled, lived, hoped and died in France. Garlic, Lemon and Onion is a trace of this activist milieu, “haunted by the spectre of the broken utopia [of the Spanish Republic] and the truncated hopes that accompanied it” (10.1080/14753820.2013.868652), caught between a rock and a hard place, hesitating between agitprop and armed struggle, between nostalgia and integration. The fact that Edmond the veteran of the Spanish Civil War, of the WWII Maquis (resistance)was in possession of such a manual on explosives should not be entirely a surprise. The fact that this document, no bigger than a passport, lay since his death in an attic should remind us of the complexity of activist knowledge transmission and the thorny process of radicalisation. A grandson of a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, of the anti-Francoist resistance does not automatically join the ranks of insurrection. Bernard, grandson of Edmond, looks at this little leaflet as an amusing and intriguing piece of archive, as a document from a time long gone.