José Peirats Valls was born in Vall d'Uxó in the province of Castellón on 15 March 1908 and died in Burriana near his place of birth on 20 August 1989. Of working-class origins, he started working at age eight. He received some primary education at the Rationalist School of Barcelona and attended night school from 1924 onward. At age fourteen he joined the anarcho-syndicalist movement. Although he baked tiles for a living, he studied independently and soon began writing. He published his first articles in the bulletin for the union of construction workers and subsequently contributed to periodicals such as Ética, La Revista Blanca and Tierra y Libertad. From 1934 until early 1936, he edited Solidaridad Obrera, where he became acquainted with the journalistic style of Felipe Aláiz. During the periods that the censors prohibited the paper's publication, he supported himself through construction work.
In the interview that appeared in El movimiento libertario español, he described his activities in the years preceding the Civil War: "As a member of the CNT, I did a little bit of everything." He addressed meetings and gatherings, served on committees, drafted manifestos and organized strikes. At congresses he represented fairly orthodox views within the movement. In addition to his work for the union and the newspaper, he was deeply interested in the educational work at libraries and ateneos and believed that the organization of the Libertarian Youth (which he co-founded in 1932) was dedicated both to defending social causes and to raising anarchist awareness. After the war he helped establish the Ateneo Español in Toulouse in 1959. He also wrote several plays and novellas.
In 1933 he was the secretary of the Barcelona chapter of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI). During the July days in 1936 Peirats and other anarchists broke into the barracks in his hometown of Hospitalet and seized the arms present there, after the soldiers had departed to occupy the centre of Barcelona. After the revolt was suppressed, he briefly represented the FAI on the Revolutionary Committee for Hospitalet and socialized food distribution. He became opposed to anarchist participation in the government. Peirats expressed his views in the newspaper Acracia, which was published in Lérida. After losing his job because of his position, he switched to the Libertarian Youth periodical Ruta. In late 1937 he volunteered at the front at Aragón. Following the defeat of the Republic he went into exile in various countries in Latin America and returned to France in 1947, where he served as secretary-general of the libertarian movement in exile (the Movimiento Libertario Español (MLE) - secretariado intercontinental) in 1947 and 1950. As such, he attended a clandestine meeting of the movement in Madrid in 1947. He was the only secretary-general of the MLE ever to undertake this bold venture. In the 1960s he drifted apart from the organization.
After the war he frequently addressed anarchist meetings and wrote for a broad range of anarchist publications - he was the director of the weekly CNT from 1953 to 1959 and published in the periodical Frente Libertario, which Fernando Gómez Peláez issued from 1970 until 1977. He also wrote a great many works about the history of Spanish anarchism, including his monumental La CNT en la revolución española.
From 1971 Peirats and his compañera Gracia Ventura lived in the Villa Canaima in Montady near Béziers, which his friend Germinal Gracia and relatives had provided. In 1983 they settled in Vall d'Uxó.
In 2001 the IISH received the personal papers of José Peirats. The bulk of these papers, which span about one metre, consists of Peirats's personal correspondence over the years with his vast network of friends and acquaintances from the movement in which he had been involved for so long. In their letters they discussed the affairs within the movement and reflected on the years preceding and during the Civil War. Peirats's correspondence with individuals such as Fernando Gómez Peláez, Juan Gómez Casas, Benito Milla, Fidel Miró and José Martínez Guerricabeitia (the publisher of Ruedo Ibérico) also covered his publishing activities. He exchanged letters with historians such as Burnett Bolloten and John Brademas, whose questions he answered about the Civil War and the Anarchist movement.
The archive contains both the letters Peirats received and carbon copies of those he sent. Most correspondence covers the period from the early 1960s until the late 1980s. There are also a few folders of documentation, such as handbills, internal circulars of the movement in exile and individual issues of newspapers from France and North Africa. Finally, the archive comprises the carbon copies of published and unpublished articles and several versions of his memoirs (all but one of which are incomplete). This archive complements those of his friends José Ester Borrás and Fernando Gómez Peláez, which are also available at the IISH.
Peirats's printed publications appear in the IISH catalogue. There you can also find more pictures.
- 'José Peirats Valls', in: Miguel Iñiguez, Esbozo de una Enciclopedia histórica del anarquismo español. (Madrid, 2001).
- El movimiento libertario español : pasado presente y futuro. Suplemento de Cuadernos de Ruedo Ibérico (Parijs, 1974) pp. 231-245.
- José Peirats (Madrid, 1989).
- 'José Peirats Valls : historia contemporánea del Movimiento Libertario : visión crítica de un compromiso anarquista : la Revolución social'. in: Anthropos. Revista de documentación científica de la cultura. nº 102,1989.
- 'José Peirats Valls : una experiencia histórica del pensamiento libertario : memorias y seleccíon de artículos breves'. in: Suplemento de Anthropos nº 18, januari 1990.