Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular

Ann: a campaign for the Ateneu
From: Andrew H. Lee, [mailto]andrew.lee@nyu.edu[/mailto]

I pass this along because it deals with an important and active center of working class culture and history in Barcelona, Spain. I have used the Ateneu and I became a socio (member). The webpage is [url]http://www.firmasonline.com/1Firmas/camp1.asp?C=683[/url]It has text in Spanish, Catalan, and English with a link to the signature process at the bottom. If you decide to sign, the process is similar to other online petitions, but since this is in Spanish I have instructions here to make it easier. You can sign with or without a digital signature certification ("firmar sin certificado") which is the easiest. The next page will have required boxes in the following order: name, email, town, and country. Then there are buttons to chose if your signature is private (not publicly viewable, accessible only to the author of the petition, or publicly viewable. At the bottom of the page is a button ("previsulizacion de su firma") which allows you to preview your signature. The next screen is a preview with the button "firma correcta" which enables you to submit your signature. If you want to make changes, use the back button on your browser. Once you submit your signature you will get an email confirmation but no further action is required.

I have pasted below the English text of the campaign. Manifesto of the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular (english) The Ateneu Enciclopèdic Manifesto

The pacts of silence of the so-called Spanish transition resulted in the ostracism of organizations like the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular (AEP). Founded in 1902 by libertarians with a passion for reading, like Joseph Tubau and Eladi Gardó, the AEP received the unconditional support of Francesc Layret, Lluís Companys, Lluís Bulfí and other workers and intellectuals of working-class origin who championed the cultural, pedagogical and social aspirations of the working class.

During the first 30 years of the 20th Century the Ateneu became a frame of reference for both culture and for popular social movements in Barcelona. Membership reached 20.000 in the decade between 1910 and 1920. The innumerable sections provided diverse criteria for knowledge and for social relations, the main aim always being to encourage collectivism.

Throughout this period the Ateneu acquired an enormous heritage, both human and material. Witness to the latter, the AEP owned the ground floor and two upper floors of carrer del Carme 30, an apartment in carrer de Santa Anna, a plot of land at the confluence of la Rambla and Pintor Fortuny (today the site of a hotel) and also a chalet in la Molina, seized by the Falangists after the Spanish Civil War and today occupied by the Generalitat of Catalunya.

It should also be emphasized that during this period important figures of Catalonian culture, like Joan Salvat Papasseit, Joaquin Maurin, Víctor Colomer, Manuel Ainaud de Lasarte, Joan Bastardas, Jaime Aiguader, Joseph Mª de Sucre, Joan Amades, Angel Pestaña and Salvador Seguí, played an actie role in the Ateneu.

After the disasters of the war, the city of Barcelona was occupied by Franco's army on the 26 January 1939. The fascist troops gave vent to their rage burning and destroying the library and the archive of the Ateneu at the main centre at carrer del Carme 30. They had evidently learned those early lessons, given by General Emilio Mola, "We must put a stop to working-class culture." and General José Millán Astray,"Long live death!", very well.

A long, dark night of silence ensued and the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular, like so many other collectives, suffered exile, imprisonment and death. During the post-war period Franco's regime made every attempt to exterminate working-class culture. Fear came into homes everywhere and people dared not even speak of their own memories.

With the death of the dictator and democracy restored in our country, a group of old Ateneu members and politically active young people gradually revived the spirit of what the AEP had been. In 1977 the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular was re-formed, ready to recuperate not only the memory of the Ateneu but also that of a people who had fought against fascism; a people who had proved themselves capable, at times, of defeating the enemy.

Since then, the AEP has always organized its activities with the aim of retrieving the historical memory of the people at a ground-roots level in order to continue its task as a type of Popular University. Throughout this time it has gradually converted its library, press collection and documentary archive (currently The Historical-Social Documentation Centre) into one of the most important labour-movement documentary archives in Spain. At the same time it has organized a wide variety of activities through conferences, debates, itinerant exhibitions and poetry recitals, and has collaborated with the media, both national and international, in the preparation of documentaries and exhibitions, always with the aim of recuperating the history, silenced for so long, of our people.

This has involved an undeniable effort by the members of the Ateneu, both during the period it was located at carrer Montalegre 5 and since it moved to the current centre at Passeig de Sant Joan 26. With very limited means (our motivation has never been financial gain) our work has always been inspired by a spirit of generosity, our aim to recover our history as a people, because we knew, and we know, that in order to face the future we need to know our past.

So, one hundred years later, the idea which is the basis of the Ateneu remains the same: to propagate popular culture in a world where the moral education of the people has been replaced by the capitalist machine.

Now, after almost 30 years of this unequal battle, when it seems that important sectors in society are speaking of recuperating the historical memory of a people, we think it an appropriate moment to reiterate that the return of the so-called Salamanca papers is not sufficient. We believe that organizations like the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular deserve the same consideration as the majority of organizations, individuals, political parties, and unions, victims of Franco's regime, who have had part of their heritage returned; a restitution that has not been granted to the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular.

For all the above we consider that current governing bodies must restore this heritage to today's members of the Ateneu, above all given that the Ateneu's libraries, theatres and various meeting places were built, in large part, thanks to the donations and sacrifice of thousands of working-class members of the Ateneu.

Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular Draft Project

Below we list a description of the installations we consider necessary for the activities of the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular.
  • A better location for the premises of the Library and the Historical–Social Documentation Centre (CDHS) incorporating an area suitable for users and researchers to carry out their work and research.
  • Multi-purpose premises so that the Ateneu is no longer, of necessity, a nomadic association and can carry out all activities: conferences, exhibitions, events, book presentations, audiovisual showings etc. on its own premises.
  • Meeting areas for the different sections of the Ateneu.
  • For all the above we deem necessary:
  • Premises of 1500m2. with the following draft layout:
  • Entrance hall.
  • Library, Press Archive and Archive: 600m2 with shelving suitable for the conservation of the documentation.
  • Consultation room: 50 to 70 m2
  • Reception for the Library, Press Archive and Archive.
  • Conference Room seating 100 people
  • Seminar room for 40 to 50 people
  • Board Room: 50 to 60 m2
  • 5 or 6 rooms of 50 m2 each for the meetings of the different sections of the AEP
  • 1 waiting/reception room
  • Lavatories and other installations
  • The location of the projected Ateneu should be as close as possible to the premises of the original Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popularse a maximum distance of between 500 and 1000 metres.
Andrew H. Lee
Librarian for History, European Studies, & Politics
Bobst Library
New York University
70 Washington Square South
New York, New York 10012
1 212 998-2633
1 212 995-4583 fax