Historical walks through the 20th century Barcelona  

Ribera & Barceloneta


On 23 July 1936, four days after the military uprising against the Republic had been halted in the streets of Barcelona, the CNT workers union occupied this building, formerly the headquarters of the Catalan bosses’ association, Foment Nacional del Treball. Due to the hegemony the CNT exercised during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the site became a centre of power in Catalonia. This was, for example, the starting point for the funeral procession in honour of Buenaventura Durruti, the union leader killed at the front on 20 November 1936.

The National Confederation of Labour (CNT), founded in Barcelona in 1910 on the principles of anarcho-syndicalism, played a very active role in the struggle against the military coup of 19 July 1936. From that point forth, it assumed a leading role sharing the limelight with the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), which led to the trade union being renamed the CNT-FAI. The victory of anti-fascism afforded political and military hegemony to the anarcho-syndicalists, therefore the power remained in their hands and a revolutionary situation ensued in which many residents’, political and trade union organisations occupied buildings and premises. On July 23, the CNT occupied the building of the Foment Nacional del Treball (employers’ organisation) and the adjacent building (owned by Francesc Cambó, who, having fled to Paris, lent his support to the military-fascist rebellion), turning them into the headquarters of the Regional Committee of the trade union, known as the Casa CNT-FAI.

One of the most famous CNT leaders was Buenaventura Durruti, who participated actively in the revolutionary events in the early war period in Catalonia and who was a member of the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, an organisation created in July 1936 to organise the forces that fought against the military uprising in Catalonia and at the Aragon front. Soon afterwards, he decided to go to the front and form the Durruti column, which headed first towards Saragossa and in the month of November, towards Madrid, where he died of causes that are still unknown today. On November 21, Durruti’s body set out for Barcelona, where they had prepared a funeral chamber in the Casa CNT-FAI. Throughout the night, crowds gathered outside the headquarters of the anarcho-syndicalists and on the morning of 23 November, a procession began that accompanied Durruti’s coffin, draped in a red and black flag, to Montjuïc cemetery. The procession was led by the militiamen in Durruti’s column, representatives of the CNT-FAI and the republican government, noteworthy among whom were the President of the Government of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, and the Mayor of Barcelona, Carles Pi i Sunyer. They were followed by relatives of the deceased and other left-wing party representatives. In the month of September 1937, the City Council changed the name of Via Laietana to that of Via Buenaventura Durruti.

Following the Francoist occupation of Barcelona in January 1939, employers retrieved the premises and Franco outlawed the CNT and expropriated all its assets. However, the trade union had a considerable presence underground during the dictatorship, both in the trade union struggle and the armed struggle, becoming the leading opposition force until the mid-1950s.

Address: 32, Via Laietana || Coordinates: (LAT, LONG): 41.385413123, 2.177131459

  • Periods:
  • Second Republic
  • Civil War
  • Francoism
  • Transition