Lucio Urtubia: An anarchist life

Lucio Urtubia: An anarchist life

From Enough is Enough

Social rebel, counterfeiter, bandit, modern Robin Hood – the list of titles with which our anarchist comrade Lucio Urtubia was honoured is long. His life, which sounds like an adventure novel, is a mirror of the revolutionary movements in Europe in the second half of the 20th century. Lucio Urtuba passed away today. Rest In Power Lucio!

Published by Enough 14.

Lucio Urtubia was born in 1931 in a small village in Navarre and grew up in poor conditions. When he was called up for military service, he deserted to France shortly afterwards, where he worked as a bricklayer from then on. He came into contact with anarchist groups and met his political foster father: the legendary Sabaté, who organized the armed resistance against the Franco dictatorship from France. Forging documents, hiding underground fighters and illegal fundraising activities play a major role in his life from then on. Numerous resistance organisations, which have a base of operations in France or are looking for a place to retreat, benefit from his skills: Black Panthers, Tupamaros, European guerrillas. Lucio’s solidarity is with every act of revolt aimed at a more just social order.

In 1962, he proposed to Che Guevara, then head of the National Bank of Cuba, to flood the world market with counterfeit dollar bills in order to destabilize the US economy. The proposal meets little approval on the Cuban side, but the idea remains alive in Lucio. In 1980 he succeeds in his greatest coup: by printing traveller’s cheques from Citibank with a value of several million dollars he brings the then most powerful bank in the world on its knees.

But the list of his activities is not completed. Lucio is also a master of conspiracy, however, who manages to spend only a few months in prison in his not exactly law-abiding life. He breaks the silence at the age of well over 70. There is a book and also a movie (Watch here) about Lucio Urtubia.

Lucio, The Good Bandit: Reflections of an Anarchist

Marie Trigona, Toward Freedom (05/06/2008)

Outspoken and charismatic, Lucio speaks like a true anarchist. When asked what it means to be an anarchist, Lucio refutes the misperception of the terrorist, “The anarchist is a person who is good at heart, responsible.” Yet he makes no apologies for the need to destroy the current social order, “it’s good to destroy certain things, because you build things to replace them.”

Lucio has old friends in the Southern Cone. Funds from the forgery operatives helped hundreds from revolutionary organizations exile and finance clandestine actions against the bloody dictatorships which disappeared ten thousands of activists, students and workers during the 1970’s throughout Latin America. In Uruguay, funds from falsified Citibank travelers’ checks funded the guerilla group Tupamaros, in the US the Black Panthers and other revolutionary groups throughout Europe.

During his recent visit to South America, Lucio stayed at the worker run BAUEN Hotel in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires. He was astounded by the accomplishments of the workers without bosses. At the BAUEN hotel, workers are putting into practice workers autogestíon or self-management. Self-management has been a mainstay of anarchist thought since the birth of capitalism. Rather than authority – obey relationship between capitalists and workers, self-management implies that workers put into practice an egalitarian system in which people collectively decide, produce and control their own destinies for the benefit of the community. But for such a system to work, participants have to be hard working and responsible, one of the most important attributes a man or woman should have according to Lucio. “The anarchist movement was built by workers. Without work we can’t talk about self-management, to put self-management into practice we need to know how to do things, to work. It’s easy to be bohemian.”

Lucio explains that his anarchism is based in his poor childhood in fascist Spain. “My anarchist origins are rooted in my experience growing up in a poor family. My father was leftist, had gone to jail because he wanted the automony of the Basque country. For me that’s not revolution, I’m not nationalist. With nationalism humanity has committed a lot of mistakes. When my father got out of jail he became a socialist. We suffered a lot. I went to look for bread and the baker wouldn’t give it to me, because we didn’t have money. For me poverty enriched me, I didn’t have to make any effort to lose respect for the establishment, the Church, private property and the State.”

In Spain, fascism persevered 30 years after the end of World War II. Hundreds were placed in jail for resisting the Franco dictatorship. Anthropologists have estimated that from the onset of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936 to Franco’s death in November 1975, Franco’s Nationalists killed between 75,000 and 150,000 supporters of the Republic.

Lucio exiled to France where he discovered anarchism. He had deserted the nationalist army and escaped to France. Paris in the 1960’s was a bourgeoning city for anarchist intellectuals, organizers and guerillas in exile. It was there that Lucio met members from the anarcho-syndicalist trade union, Confederación Nacional de Trabajo (CNT). He was anxious to participate.

During his early years in France, Lucio met Francisco Sabate, the legendary anarchist and guerilla extraordinaire. At this time Sabate, otherwise known by his nickname “El Quico” was the most sought after anarchist by the Franco regime. French police were also looking for Sabate, who led resistance against Franquismo. “When I met Quico, I was participating in the Juventud Libertarias. They asked me if I could help Sabate, me an ignorant, I didn’t know who he was.” Sabate used Lucio’s house as a hide out. The young Lucio, listened to Sabate’s tales of direct action and absorbed whatever wisdom he had to offer, like methods for sniffing out infiltrators. “I met guerillas that put me on the road to direct action and expropriations. Sabate taught me to lose respect for private property.”

It was then that Lucio began participating in bank robberies. “There are no bigger crooks than the banks,” says Lucio in the defense of expropriation. “[This was the] only means the anarchist had, without funding from industry or government representatives to fund them. The money was sent to those suffering from Franco’s regime.” Student organizations and worker organizations received the funds to carry out grass roots organizing. In other cases the money was used for the guerilla actions against Franco’s regime, such as campaigns for the release of political prisoners in the nationalist jails.

To save the lives of exiles, Lucio thought of a master plan to falsify passports so Spanish nationals could travel. “Passports for a refugee means being able to escape the country and lead safe lives elsewhere,” he explains. Not only in Europe but in the US and South America, dissidents used false ID’s to lead their lives and direct actions.

In 1977, Lucio’s group began forging checks as a direct form to finance resistance. Lucio was essentially the “boss” of the operation-he made, distributed and cashed the checks. The checks were harder to falsify than counterfeit bills. Lucio thought they should target the largest banking institution in the world, National City Bank. The distribution of the checks went to different subversive groups who used the funds to finance solidarity actions. Lucio explains that “no one got rich” from the checks. Most of the funds went to the cause. All over Europe, these checks with the same code number were cashed at the same time.

Lucio’s master plan cost City Bank tens of millions of dollars in forged travelers’ checks. But many say a much larger sum was expropriated. City Bank was at the mercy of the forger, who had cost so much that the bank had to suspend travelers checks, ruining the holiday for thousands of tourists. At the time, people did not use check cards or credit cards. Lucio was arrested in 1980 and found with a suitcase full of the forged checks. In the meantime during Lucio’s arrest, Citibank continued to receive false travelers’ checks.

Citbank became worried. Representatives from the bank agreed to negotiate. Lucio would be released if he handed over the printing plates for the forged checks. The exchange was made, and Lucio became a legend for his mastermind plan. Although his life as a forger ended at 50-years-of-age, his life as an anarchist continued.

Lucio had always worked as a bricklayer. “What’s helped me the most is my work, Anarchists were always workers.” Lucio-bricklayer, anarchist, forger and expropriator has left a legacy like his predecessors. “People like Loise Michel, Sabate, Durruti, all the expropriators taught me how to expropriate, but not for personal gain, but how to use those riches for change.” At 76-years-of-age he does not apologize for his actions. “I’ve expropriated, which according to the Christian religion is a sin. For me expropriations are necessary. As the revolutionaries say, robbing and expropriation is a revolutionary act as long as one doesn’t benefit from it.”

We ( The Cinema Committee) are happy to present our latest work, The Great Anarchist Conspiracy, a documentary that charts anarchism’s resilient survival from the 1890s all the way up the 1970s. Our film centers mostly on the anarchist forger Lucio Urtubia, anarchist guerrilla Francisco Sabate, anarchist militant Octavio Alberola, the First of May Group, and the Angry Brigade, people who kept the flame of anarchism alive and ensured it still exists today. Click the link below the see the movie:

There are 11 Comments

They don't make anarchists like this anymore. Lucio was the real deal and knowing him, he would have laughed about how stupid it is to write the word castellano (referring to the language) with an x!
DEP Compa, que la tierra te lleva!

"Lucio had always worked as a bricklayer. “What’s helped me the most is my work, Anarchists were always workers.” Lucio-bricklayer, anarchist, forger and expropriator ",,,,,
........*facepalms, sighs*

You are the idiot who needs face palming. The previous generations of anarchists are legends compared to the weak fools around today who won't even do a days work in their life. Already slaves.

right, because the most anarchist thing in the world is to WORK. pathetic.

learning how to do something with your hands that you care about and that is demonstrable and that other people care about and that lasts is indeed A Thing, bob black and abolish work, notwithstanding, and whether or not it is good for the world in some larger sense.
i might argue, if i were in the mood, that the kind of work that people do now, tending toward ephemera even when it is significant, is part of an expanding alienation of recent decades. luckily i'm not in the mood.

huh! never thought of alienation that way, great point.

yes, work IS alienation. the efforts of one's labor, completely mediated from the sustenence of one's life.

I could have replied to any of the thousand comments you’ve littered this site with.
I place a curse on you. I attribute to it the root cause for every misfortune that ever came about to your ancestors. Imagine all of existence, every moment as part of a spinning disc. Which each turn, faster and faster, watch your ancestry decay, melting like wax figurines. As all life on Earth shares a common ancestor, and all matter can be traced to a single point, this generalized decay will rot all they saw, all you see, until it combusts. If it’s not clear to you, I’m condemning you to be in this world as it is, all your suffering, all the suffering that preceded you, all the suffering around you. You are the culmination of this curse. A universe set in course so you could embody and experience it. I close the circle at this point. It began with your mistake which condemned the void to spew a universe destined to spawn you, a detestable being with flaws which would inevitably lead to your mistake and to the curse that will punish it. With each turn, a new universe is spawned. A multiverse dedicated to punishing and eroding all came to be you.

of course, taking direct action to meet your own needs and desires is necessary for any anarchist (that i have affinity with). to conflate that with what is almost always called "work" in the current world is manipulative bs. if there is an employer/employee type relation, it is "work". i am not using the physics definition; "work" is a term with far too much baggage in the capitalist world.

relationship is not the only thing happening in work. in fact, emphasizing that aspect does a disservice to one's understanding. a. employer can mean a person or a conglomerate. b. some employers can be worked around with ease. c. some co-workers are far more significant than employers (for good or ill). d. etc, and e. none of this takes into account the actual labor, the activity that you spend time doing, which has even greater range of possibilities, and is an essential component of anything called work.

knee jerk reactions are fine, or whatever, but they get boring after a while, and they definitely are not a great way to understand the world. and here you're talking to anarchists, right? not just to any capitalism-accepting rando off the street. or, at least you could be...

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