To cupellate

Marxist Dictionary

To define oneself in the critique of the historical class experience until one (or a group) gains the necessary clarity to adopt clear political positions and defend them without compromise.

Origins

We owe the term to the leader of the Spanish Communist Left (ICE), Manuel Fernández Grandizo (“G.Munis”). Munis spent his adolescence in the town of Llerena, where his family was from, with him being one of the founders of the ICE in the region, which would become the largest section of the Spanish Communist Left. In Llerena and its region, the mining world was very present. Although most of the workers in Llerena and its region were agricultural journeymen, a large number of them also worked in the nearby mines of Guadalcanal. They are no ordinary mines. According to the most recent historical research, they were, together with other mines in the local mountain range, the first place in Europe where the capital-labor relationship organized the regional economy… in the first century BCE, long before capitalism was imposed as a mode of production on an entire society.

From that time on, silver was extracted and “refined” in special furnaces by means of a technique called “cupellation” (“acendrar” in Spanish). This process is based on the fact that silver is a noble metal and does not oxidize at high temperatures while the base metals that accompany it separate when heated, forming slag. It is called cupellation because the required temperatures are so high that a special container is required, the “cupel” which could only be made of one material, “cendra”. Cendra is a paste made from bone ash.

That is why in the folklore of those silversmiths and miners who had preserved the art of their trade for centuries, the cendra appeared in a set of metaphors in which it symbolized from resilience to knowledge, from moral strength to the memory of the past. For Munis, “to cupellate”, “acendrar” would become the word-formula that summarizes a process of political maturation.

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