Vol. XXXIV, No.4
PUBLISHED BY THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE ARCHIVES
The Catalan Crisis Human Rights Films (p. 5) Watt Awards (p. 7) Civil War Novels Translated (p. 14 & 23) Pro-independence supporters during a rally in Barcelona on September 11, 2017. Photo Màrius Montón. CC BY-SA 4.0
Dear Friends and Comrades: Founded by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade 799 Broadway, Suite 341 New York, NY 10003 (212) 674-5398 www.alba-valb.org Editor Print Edition Peter N. Carroll Editor Online Edition www.albavolunteer.org Sebastiaan Faber Associate Editor Aaron B. Retish Book Review Editor Joshua Goode Graphic Design www.eyestormonline.com Editorial Assistance Phil Kavanaugh Manuscripts, inquiries, and letters to the editor may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org The editors reserve the right to modify texts for length and style. Books for review may be sent to Joshua Goode Claremont Graduate University Blaisdell House, #5, 143 East 10th Street Claremont, CA 91711
www.albavolunteer.org The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) is an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting social activism and the defense of human rights. ALBA’s work is inspired by the American volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Drawing on the ALBA collections in New York University’s Tamiment Library, and working to expand such collections, ALBA works to preserve the legacy of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as an inspiration for present and future generations.
IN THIS ISSUE p 3 ALBA in the Classroom p 5 Film Festival p 7 Watt Awards p 9 Antifascism in Ohio p 11 Faces of ALBA-VALB p 12 HR Column: Deporting Veterans p 14 Julio Llamazares p 15 Wolf Moon p 16 ALBA/Susman Lecture p 17 Bob Smillie p 19 Catalan Crisis p 21 Alejandra Soler p 23 Book Review p 25 Poetry Feature p 26 Contributions 2 THE VOLUNTEER December 2017
We have all been following the conflict over the status of Catalonia within the Spanish state. This issue of The Volunteer features an insightful interview on the topic with journalist Emilio Silva (page 19). The conflict over Catalonia has not only mobilized a sector of the left but also, Silva notes, “improved the image of the Catalan right” and, in both Catalonia and Spain, encouraged a return to “authoritarian attitudes in day-to-day life” as the hard right is gathering force. He warns this response can “have serious consequences in many areas of society, including the defense of historical memory.” Concerns over the increase of fascist attitudes, symbols, and practices in Europe resonate on our side of the Atlantic. High school teachers who have attended our most recent institutes in Cleveland and Bowling Green (Ohio) as well as in Milwaukee have been receptive and, in many cases, eager to link the antifascist struggles of the past with issues confronting us in the present. From our Human Rights Film Festival (page 5) to the Watt Award Prize (page 7), from publishing excerpts of Julio Llamazares’s newly translated novel about the Spanish maquis after World War II to an interview with Pat Williamsen, Executive Director of Ohio Humanities, on her courageous public statement on the events in Charlottesville, The Volunteer continues to provide a platform for the discussion of different acts of resistance against Fascism. The months ahead are shaping up to be possibly our most intense period in educational programs. On November 7, thanks to a major grant from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, we will be offering our 10th Teachers’ workshop at the King Juan Carlos Center in NY; followed by institutes in Pittsburgh and Clemson (SC) along with several other locations across the country that still need to be finalized. Finally, it is with some sadness that we announce that ALBA will relocate its offices by January 2018. The historical building on 799 Broadway known as the “St Denis Hotel,” where the vets worked since the 1970s, has been purchased by a real estate developer and will be demolished. On the bright side, a sister organization has offered to have us move into their building. The agreement is being discussed as we go to press. We welcome the challenges ahead and, with your support, the legacy of the Lincoln Brigade, our legacy, will endure. ¡No Pasarán!
Fraser Ottanelli Chair of the Board of Governors
Marina Garde Executive Director
Letter to ALBA To The Volunteer: Reading "Forgotten Fighters: American Anarchist Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War," I noted that at least one prominent American who volunteered for service in the Anarchist Durruti Column remains forgotten. I mean, of course, Carl Marzani. Herein, I borrow freely from Carl’s memoir, "The Education of a Reluctant Radical," Vol. 3, pp. 11-36. Carl had been awarded a fellowship to study at Oxford. By the time he arrived, early in October 1936, Germany and Italy had both invaded Spain and savage fighting was underway. He knew he couldn’t stay away so he persuaded the Daily Herald to take him on as its foreign correspondent in Spain. Early in December, he went to Spain by way of Paris where he boarded a train carrying nearly a thousand, mostly French, volunteers for the international Brigades. Carl was the only American. The mood on the train was somber. Robert A. Murtha, Jr. Editors’ note: Carl Marzani is a significant omission from the ranks of the anarchists who fought on behalf of the Spanish Republic, but our author was writing about anarchists who served with the 15th International Brigade. Carl served with the Anarchist group that was not connected to the Communist-led IBs.
Workshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 2017. Photo A. Fernández
ALBA in the Classroom
Institutes More Relevant Than Ever By ALBA Educational Committee
“Suddenly, the sorts of discussions that ALBA had been facilitating with teachers “on the fringe” for over a decade found themselves in the headlines once again.
For the past 10 years, ALBA has been conducting professional development workshops for high school educators all over the country, and to date we have reached over 1,200 teachers in more than nine states. In our workshops, ALBA faculty introduce the participating teachers to our extensive collection of primary-source material and work with them to come up with ways of getting the Spanish Civil War, the history of anti-fascism, and the stories of the women and men of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade into their classrooms. Over time, we have expanded the historical arc covered in the workshops, tracing threads from the conflict in Spain all the way to the present day, passing through World War II, Vietnam, the perennial Oil Wars in the Middle East, the conflict in Syria, and the ongoing struggle for social, racial and economic justice in the United States and abroad.
For the first eight or nine years of our educational programs, we would often have to make the case for the current relevance of many of the issues we focus on: fascism & anti-fascism, refugees, interventionism and non-interventionism, internationalism, Human Rights, the working class struggle, etc. And then came the last presidential election cycle and its disastrous aftermath. Suddenly, the sorts of discussions that ALBA had been facilitating with teachers “on the fringe” for over a decade found themselves in the headlines once again. This change in landscape has led to a drastic increase in the demand for the type of educational outreach we perform. As a result, this past Fall semester was our most active semester ever, and the Spring of 2018 is shaping up to be even more lively (see below). We always knew that the anti-fascist legacy that we work to preserve and pass on is vital and urgent, but we had no idea just how vital and just how urgent it would become in the years immediately following the disappearance of the last remaining Lincoln veterans. Today’s general public, students and teachers included, are hungry to learn about and engage critically with the complexities of the 1930s. And by connecting them with the extraordinary legacy of the Lincolns, we are helping them make sense of the troubling times in which we now find ourselves. December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 3
Left: Teachers at the ALBA workshop in the Maltz Museum for Jewish Heritage (Cleveland). Photo S. Faber. Right: James Lane at the Bowling Green workshop. Photo S. Faber.
ALBA INSTITUTE CALENDAR FALL 2017
September 24-26: Peter N. Carroll and Sebastiaan Faber present special workshop on professional development at the annual conference of the Ohio Council for the Social Studies in Cincinnati, Ohio. October 10: Carroll, Faber and James Lane co-teach a one-day workshop in Cleveland, Ohio, co-hosted by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. Ten participants. October 12: Carroll, Faber, and Lane co-teach a one-day workshop in Bowling Green, Ohio, co-hosted by Bowling Green State University. Thirty-three participants. Followed by a discussion at the Bowling Green Public Library. October 17: Andrés Fernández Carrasco leads a class visit of 20 NYC high school seniors to the Tamiment Library, where they handle and analyze posters from the Spanish Civil War. October 18: James D. Fernández and Juan Salas co-teach a oneday workshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin., co-hosted by the School of Education and the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). Sixteen participants. November 7: Carroll, Fernández and María Hernández-Ojeda co-teach a one-day workshop for high school educators in New York City, co-hosted by NYU, and sponsored, in part, by funds provided by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). Fifty-five participan. November 17: James D. Fernández leads a class visit of 16 NJ high schoolers to the Tamiment Library, where they handle and analyze letters and other artifacts from the Spanish Civil War.
SPRING 2018 February 22: one-day workshop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; co-sponsored by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) and Classrooms Without Borders March 2: one-day workshop Clemson, South Carolina; co-sponsored by the Department of History at Clemson University March 8-10: Presentation at the annual conference of the NY State Council for the Social Studies (Albany, NY) April 21: one-day workshop in Seattle, Washington; co-sponsored by the University of Washington April 21: Presentation at The Greater Metropolitan New York Social Studies Conference (NYC, NY) TBD, one-day workshop at Hofstra (Long Island, NY); co-sponsored by Hofstra University TBD, one-day workshop in Columbus, Ohio TBD, one-day workshop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; co-sponsored by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) and Classrooms Without Borders TBD, two-day workshop in Eastern Massachusetts; co-sponsored by the Collaborative for Educational Services. TBD, three-day workshop in New York City, NY; co-sponsored by NYU and funded, in part, by funds provided by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA).
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“I will definitely incorporate [into my teaching] several of the primary sources and posters. […] Today’s institute was very informative and empowering. I will leave with a confidence to teach the rise of fascism and the Spanish Civil War with a variety of new lessons. The knowledge and delivery of information from the instructors was excellent.” –high school social studies teacher, five years experience. Cleveland, Ohio. “This was by far one of the best professional workshops I have attended. It was well organized and the information invaluable to my teaching.” –high school teacher of Spanish language and culture, 20 years experience. Bowling Green, Ohio.
It was exhilarating to help implement what the two of you provided for our teachers [at the Ohio Council for the Social Studies Conference in Cincinatti]. Things flowed seamlessly, we had a large crowd, teachers were in rapt attention and it showed up in the superlative evaluations you received. I was approached by one of our OCSS Board members who talked about how blown away she was by the quality of the session and the materials which you provided. She mentioned that she came to a brand new awareness of the importance of the Spanish Civil War and its interconnection with WWII and fascism. She just gushed appreciation. She felt much as I did two years ago when I first attended Peter’s session at OCSS. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to bring you and the ALBA materials to our teachers. —James Lane
Left: Students visit the ALB collection at NYU’s Tamiment Library, October 2017. Photo A. Fernández Right: Teachers at the Bowling Green workshop. Photo S. Faber.
Impugning Impunity team
I’ll Be There: Film Festival Shows Legacy of the Lincolns By James D. Fernández
ALBA’s Human Rights Film Festival shines a light on human rights abuses—and on those who try to stop them—wherever they may happen. The geography covered by this year’s Impugning Impunity is vast.
ust a few minutes into The Good Fight, the 1984 documentary that has introduced tens of thousands of Americans to the history of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the inimitable Bill Bailey describes the one thing that drove him and so many of the Lincolns to go to Spain:
You were now concerned with what happened in Timbuktu. If some poor working stiff was on strike in Timbuktu, or Addis Ababa, and he’s out there carrying a placard, and some cop comes down and starts bustin’ his skull, you were concerned about that because that was your brother out in Adis Ababa, or Timbuktu, or Cape Town, or Australia, or any place else. They were your human beings, your class brothers. Sounding every bit like a Tom Joads but with a thick New Joysey accent, Bailey
delivers his own “I’ll be there” speech, very much like the famous soliloquy that Henry Fonda’s character intones in the 1940 movie adaptation of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. But Bailey, with much more directness than Steinbeck’s character, points to, as the driving force of his wanting-to-be-everywhere, international working class solidarity. And sure enough, once Spain’s Democratic Worker’s Republic was attacked by fascists in July 1936, Bailey and almost 3,000 other Americans would eventually say: “I’ll be there.” And there they went. But now they’re gone. ALBA’s mission is to keep alive the legacy of the Lincolns at a time when they are no longer among us. A key part of that legacy was international solidarity and, though the ever class-conscious volunteers probably would not have used the expression
very much themselves, the defense of human rights. That is why, in different ways, ALBA’s core activities focus precisely on those aspects. Our educational outreach programs strive to help teachers and students access and interpret the materials they need to reconstruct, in all of its complexity and richness, the world of solidarity out of which the Lincolns emerged. Our ALBA Puffin Human Rights Prize recognizes and promotes the work of brave individuals and organizations who take on their own good fights against injustice. And our Human Rights Film Festival, more than any of our activities, shines a light on human rights abuses—and on those who try to stop them— wherever they may happen. The geography covered by this year’s Impugning Impunity festival is vast; it seems as if the documentary filmmakers and the festival programmers have truly taken to heart Tom Joads’s timeless call for ubiquity and solidarity. December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 5
The documentary filmmakers have truly taken to heart Tom Joads’s timeless call for ubiquity and solidarity. A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just a little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody… I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look. Wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there; wherever there’s a cop, beating up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad… The films featured this year took us from Syria to Standing Rock; from Harvard Yard to a Jordanian refugee camp; from Guatemala to the streets of New York; from Israel to Benin; and in a wide range of styles, from experimental to denunciatory, the films educated us and positioned us to feel solidarity with those who suffer and fight injustice wherever it occurs. We were there. How did people like Bill Bailey acquire the global perspective of international solidarity that he displayed in The Good Fight and throughout his life? Bailey himself was a seaman and, as such, a world traveler. But most people in the 1930s—especially working-class people—would have acquired their “worldliness” through the media. Newspapers, magazines, radio, and, more as the ‘30s wore on, documentary film, whether in the form of short newsreels screened in movie theaters, or in the form of freestanding non-fiction films that explored current issues. The making of documentary films was a key component of the Republican propaganda effort during the Spanish Civil War, as the government struggled to win the hearts and minds of the world over to the cause of antifascism. And we know of several recorded cases where volunteers’ decisions to go to Spain were directly influenced by moving pictures they had seen. Today, digital technology, which enables high-quality and independent video production at relatively low cost, combined with the emergence of a generation of fearless and talented young filmmakers who are determined to document and fight injustice, has engendered a golden age of human rights documentary filmmaking. These films generate knowledge and solidarity; the first necessary but insufficient steps to action. For all of these reasons, it
is altogether fitting that ALBA include, in the heart of our programmatic mission, this human rights film festival. The films showcased in Impugning Impunity respond directly to the pleas of Tom Joads and Bill Bailey. In their own ways, they appeal to, and at the same time help construct, that borderless global conscience for which the Lincolns longed and fought and died. Impugning Impunity, 2018? I’ll be there.
IMPUGNING IMPUNITY AT A GLANCE THE PROGRAM Eighteen films from 11 different countries, including 12 New York premieres, screened over three days at the historic Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV), with an opening reception, six Q+As/Meet the Filmmakers, Sunday brunch, and a closing awards ceremony. Approximately 500 people attended the five programs that made up the festival, including many new faces to ALBA. SELECTION, CURATION AND STAFF Marina Garde, director and producer Ruth Somalo, associate director and programmer Isabel Cadenas Cañón, programmer Michael McCanne, outreach coordinator Andres Fernández Carrasco, artistic coordinator Max Resnik, projectionist SPONSORS NY Council on the Arts (NYSCA); NACLA; King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center of NYU; Puffin Foundation; Pragda JURY Montserrat Armengou, award winning Catalonian investigative filmmaker; Emmywinning director Laurens Grant; and Richard Peña, former director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and of the New York Film Festival.
Harry Randall Award for Short film: Molly Stuart for Objector (opera prima). Stuart: “It was an honor to screen my film within this beautifully curated selection of documentaries. The hosts were well organized, gracious, and made the experience a delight for filmmakers and audiences alike. I look forward to seeing what's to come!”
Harry Randall Award for Feature film: On a Knife Edge by Jerey Williams. Producer Eli Cane (the grandson of Lincoln vet Lawrence Cane): “One of the central themes of ‘On a Knife Edge’ is looking to one's past for guidance and insight into one's present, and I believe this is one of the things that makes ALBA so crucial—especially at this exact moment. As boundaries within our societies are once again being drawn along the same battle lines of xenophobia, racism, and economic repression, the lives of the men and women of the Brigade become more valuable to us than ever.”
PRIZES The Harry Randall Award for best film was created in memory of Harry W. Randall, Jr. (1915-2012) who served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as Chief Photographer of the Photographic Unit of the 15th International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. Filmmakers Rebecca Rojer and Sara Leonard
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Anarchists march on the streets of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.
Watt Prizes Recognize Student Writing By Aaron Retish
George Watt, May 1938. ALBA Photo 011,11_0186, Tamiment Library.
The 2017 George Watt Essay Prize for the best writing on the Spanish Civil War received a record number of submissions. Students from Canada, Egypt, and 18 U.S. states submitted essays, poems, and stories for this year’s annual prizes.
uliann Susas of Johns Hopkins University received the award for the best essay in the undergraduate category for her splendid piece, “Spanish Civil War Music: A Crescendo of Ideological Disjuncture” (summary below). Susas delves into the rich history of music that Spaniards sang during the Civil War and compares Nationalist and Republican songs to see how each side understood the war and how the songs reflected competing values. Based on Spanish-and English-language sources, Susas shows the importance of songs in understanding the opposing combatants’ worldviews.
This is the first year that the Watt Essay Prize included a precollegiate category and we received 21 submissions, including several co-authored pieces. The submissions were so strong that the jury decided to award two students, one in non-fiction and another in fiction. Raphael Wood and Liam Doyle’s essay “A Revolution in Romanticism: The Shift in Fervor within the International Brigades and the Anarcho-Syndicalists throughout the Spanish Civil War” (summary below) studies the shaky position of the Anarcho-Syndicalists in the Republican coalition and draws on primary sources from the educational resources section of the ALBA website and several secondary sources. December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 7
15th International Brigade band, March 1938. (Tamiment Library, NYU, 15th IB Photo Collection, Photo #11_1498)
Doyle and Wood are students of ALBA teaching institute alum George Snook (recently featured in “Faces of ALBA”) at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn. Josie Fischels, a student at Independence Jr-Senior High School in Independence, Iowa also won a Watt award for her story “Shattered: The Bombing of Guernica.” Fischels’ beautiful writing impressed the jury in her moving story of a woman who grew up in Guernica and experienced the bombing, taking her grandchildren to see Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofia Museum. The jury for the Watt award was comprised of Angela Giral (Columbia University), Josh Goode (Claremont Graduate University), Gina Herrmann (University of Oregon), and Aaron Retish (Wayne State University). The George Watt Memorial Essay award honors the memory of Abraham Lincoln Brigade veteran George Watt (1914-1994), a social worker, writer, and lifelong activist who was central to the creation of ALBA. Each winner receives a prize of $250. The full text of the prize-winning submissions is available through the online edition of The Volunteer at albavolunteer.org.
Commonalities in the musical pieces composed by the Nationalists and Republicans demonstrate music as an instrument of solidarity to encourage soldiers to persevere, testaments to the ardent patriotism of war heroes and other important figures, and as a means of propaganda. Viewing music as an example of Spanish Civil War propaganda, “Spanish Civil War Music” exposes the political divide between the Nationalists and Republicans. Nationalists perceived the war as a conflict to establish a new and better regime for Spain. Republicans, on the other hand, viewed the war as a fight for freedom and the defense of progress of the Spanish republic. Overall, “Spanish Civil War Music” reveals how music can be utilized as a medium to explore the political dissonances of the Spanish Civil War.
A Revolution in Romanticism By Liam Doyle & Raphael Wood
“Spanish Civil War Music: A Crescendo of Ideological Disjuncture” By Juliann Susas
Analyzing the conflicting political ideologies of the Spanish Civil War through a cultural lens is not a novel concept. However, much of academic scholarship has been dedicated to the study of visual art and literature as artistic expressions of the political contest, ignoring the significance of music to the Spanish Civil War era. Music was more accessible to the illiterate people and more integral to the soldier’s experience. “Spanish Civil War Music” strives to bridge this gap in cultural analysis of the Spanish Civil War by examining patriotic songs and war anthems of the time. 8 THE VOLUNTEER December 2017
Our essay explores the romanticism that existed within the International Brigades and the Anarcho-Syndicalist faction during the Spanish Civil War. Both parties promoted romantic notions of egalitarianism and humanism, yet their different circumstances led to very divergent outcomes. Through the lens of Abraham Lincoln Brigaders like Alvah Bessie and Benjamin Iceland, we discovered that the romantic idealism of the Internationals in Spain allowed their movement, a loose confederation, to transcend the war. Meanwhile, the Anarcho-Syndicalist’s struggle to protect their homes and families necessitated a doctrinaire pragmatism which undermined their romantic qualities and entrenched them in the factionalism of Republican Spain. The Brigaders’ cause would define the fight against Fascism in World War II, living on even to the present, while the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement was the last bastion of utopian socialism at such a national level in the Western world. In fact, the evolution of these two movements was emblematic of the evolution of romanticism in the world as a whole. After all, we no longer associate feelings of optimism and passion with Marxist notions of revolution – as the Anarcho-Syndicalists did – but rather with notions of democracy, international solidarity, and secular humanism – values the International Brigades embodied.
ANTIFASCISM IN OHIO: Humanities Director Speaks Out Against White Supremacy By Sebastiaan Faber
Last August, in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Ohio Humanities issued a powerful letter condemning white supremacists who attacked antifascist protestors. We speak with Executive Director Pat Williamsen about the need for public humanists to take a stand. “America has forgotten itself.” “The short shrift we give to the humanities in education really has done a disservice to the American people.”
ew people know Ohio and its history better than Pat Williamsen. She has worked with Ohio Humanities, the state’s humanities council, for more than 30 years, serving as Executive Director since 2011. On August 25, 10 days after white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, Virginia and killed Heather Heyer, Williamsen forcefully condemned those events in a public letter that we reprint here. An accomplished photographer and writer, Williamsen studied English in Toledo and holds an M.A. in Film History and Theory from Ohio State University. She speaks slowly and reflectively—but she rarely hesitates. Although they are largely funded by the federal government, I understand the state humanities councils operate as independent non-profits, building bridges between academia and the general public. We create opportunities for the general public to use the humanities as it navigates through everyday life. Humanities schol-
ars these days are not necessarily encouraged by their universities to write for a broad audience. But I think that may be one of the reasons why we are where we are as a society. These days, I find myself trying to parse through the moment that America is in. I don’t think it started at the conclusion of the presidential election process in November, or at the party conventions in the summer of 2016. This phenomenon has been brewing for a long time—whether we’re talking about the polarization of our civic discourse, the rise of white supremacy, or even yet another mass shooting. What conclusion do you reach? I keep coming back to the notion that America has forgotten itself. We’ve forgotten so much about our history—or maybe we never knew it in the first place. The short shrift we give to the humanities in our public school systems, colleges, and universities really has done a disservice to the American people. Why are we even talking about white supremacy now? Why don’t we have December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 9
a better grasp of that? What happened 150 years ago that created an organization like the Ku Klux Klan? Why did the Klan have a remarkable resurgence in membership in the 1920s? Why was there a hugely successful membership drive right here in Ohio? We pride ourselves on being a fertile ground for abolition. And it’s true that there are many documented routes to freedom across the state. But at the same time, Ohio created black laws that discouraged men and women escaping from bondage from settling here. If we remembered these things and tried to understand those parts of our history, would we be better equipped to deal with these extremist factions now? Would more people be willing to stand up and say that what happened in Charlottesville is wrong? Would we as a culture stand up and say: enough? Your letter is exemplary not just because it takes a stand but because it creates a teachable moment to actually recall some important chapters of Ohio history. For that I am indebted to all the scholars in Ohio who, over the course of my career, have introduced me to a more nuanced sense of the state—things I simply didn’t learn when Ohio history was a requirement for the seventh or eighth grade. Actually, I am not sure if students now spend a full year studying Ohio history. Your letter was clearly born from a sense of moral indignation. What makes it so powerful is in part the fact that it takes an unusually strong position. I imagine writing it and hitting the “send” button can’t have been easy. After all, the institutional pressure is always toward the middle of the road. Instead, you took a stand—that is to say, you took a risk. We sent that letter out with a fair amount of trepidation. The day after, I received appreciative emails from constituents. It was an emotional moment for me. I realized many others had wanted to make a statement—but didn’t. I feel that we spoke for the community of public humanists in Ohio. I did consult with the executive committee of my board of directors. They urged me to make a public statement. Still, we are quite aware that we are living in perilous times. We run the risk of being called effete intellectuals or any number of other things that people ascribe to humanities scholars. But there are points at which silence is not acceptable. And we’ve seen throughout the course of world history what happens when moral people are silent. I realize we’re at a moment when it’s very dangerous to stick your head up above the lip of the foxhole. But as public humanists, how can we not? Ohio Humanities has helped sponsor ALBA’s Institutes for High School Teachers in 2010, 2012, and 2015. Sebastiaan Faber teaches at Oberlin College.
Ohio Humanities: A Special Message August 25, 2017
Just ten days ago, Americans watched horrific news videos of a car plowing in to demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia. Our hearts go out to friends and colleagues in Charlottesville. Ohio Humanities condemns all efforts to discriminate, intimidate, or marginalize our residents. The divisive racist rhetoric currently on display across the United States should not be tolerated in a democratic society. Ohio Humanities has a long tradition of supporting the discussions that help engaged citizens grapple with difficult ideas. Only together, can we explore the past to build vibrant communities that promise equitable futures for every resident of the United States. We cannot allow ourselves to believe that white supremacy is a "Southern problem." After all, the man responsible for the car attack in Charlottesville is from Lucas County. This past weekend, a Westerville neighborhood was leafletted by white supremacists who attached candies to the flyers, as though a sugar treat could sweeten their message of bigotry. Reports from other towns reveal that communities are quietly removing the graffiti of hate left by vandals on synagogues and mosques. History is filled with contradictions and conflicting perspectives. Ohio can proudly point to its history for ending a system of repression and slavery based on color and creed. During the Civil War, Ohio contributed more men and material than any other state to defeat the Confederacy, thus ending slavery in the United States. And yet, the music and lyrics for "Dixie," the de facto Confederate anthem, were penned in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. The Underground Railroad crisscrossed the state, yet Ohio's legislature enacted a Black Code to discourage free blacks and runaway slaves from settling here. Home to several Union generals who later became Presidents, Ohio is the birthplace of one of the Civil War's notorious criminals: William Quantrill was born in Dover. In the 1920s, Ku Klux Klan membership swelled as Ohioans joined up to protest the influx of Southern blacks and East Europeans seeking jobs in our industrial cities. As late as 1955, a crossburning in Hillsboro was meant to intimidate black children seeking equal education in that town's schools. White supremacists would have us believe that it's simply a matter of black and white. They lack the fundamental courage to parse our nation's complicated history or to face contemporary facts of changing demographics. How sad that these hate groups cannot appreciate the invaluable richness that every ethnic group and religious tradition contribute to our communities. Democracy demands wisdom. That wisdom can be gained only by the participation of individuals willing to explore historic fact and civilly debate differing interpretations of historic events. Ohio Humanities offers grants and guidance to foster conversations that explore difficult questions. If we can help your community hold a conversation about race and ethnicity in light of current events, please contact us at email@example.com. Pat Williamsen Executive Director, Ohio Humanities
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Faces of ALBA-VALB
“Learning the Truth is Hard Sometimes” By Marina Garde Dayana Arrue is a Geoscience Engineering major at Rutgers University and an intern at an engineering firm. An activist for environmental and migration-related causes, she hopes to remediate groundwater pollution by designing wastewater treatment systems. She is also a passionate speaker on behalf of the Dreamers, the undocumented young activists who received the ALBA/Puffin Prize for Human Rights Activism in 2013. Dayana first attended ALBA’s Human Rights Film Festival four years ago and has not missed the annual event since. You have been attending “Impugning Impunity” since 2013. How did you hear about ALBA? I heard about the Lincoln Brigade volunteers and the human rights film festival through my Honors History professor Hank Doherty at Essex County College in Newark, who focused on exposing us to different worldviews and to scholarly debate about social events. He always invited his students to Impugning Impunity. Most students don’t come because it’s a far trip from New Jersey. But I have always been interested in learning about other people, their struggles and even learning about my own culture. I came to the U.S. when I was six years old and forgot most of my culture along the way. This is exactly what ALBA’s film festival teaches me. I enjoy learning but also find it painful at times; it feels like a burden to know the cruel truth many other people face and not be able to do much about it. It’s hard to bear sometimes. What do you like about the festival that makes you attend year after year? The first year I was specifically interested in watching The Tiniest Place, which is a film based on the civil war in El Salvador, my home country. During that time I started questioning my family’s political preferences in El Salvador. I’d ask: why do you prefer the [conservative] ARENA party over [progressive] FMLN? They would only say that the FMLN sent guerrilleros to hurt some people in our little hometown during the civil war and that they were simply rebellious people who did us harm. The film talks specifically about the civil war. I wanted to know about Salvadorian politics and history for myself and not simply follow blindly what my family believed. Of course, there’s never an easy answer to events like the civil war and who was involved and at fault, but it’s important to know as many facts as possible nonetheless. The film brought me to tears; the hundreds of people massacred are my people, and it hurt to know the truth. Since then I’ve started reading more about history and keeping up with as much politics as I can. I think my family and I would never vote for a party blindly again; instead, we will seek the truth. It’s a weird thing with many of our parents; there is one thing that they remember, and they’ll stick to it for the rest of their lives like my parents did with their preferred political party. They didn’t even know the current political events they only remembered that “one thing” the political party did long ago. Once I began to learn facts, I began sharing it. My family who lived through the civil war only saw one side of everything and only knew what they lived, but they didn’t see the entire picture as it is being revealed today. I’m glad they listen to me when I speak to them about the many things I am finding out about our little country.
What is the most important thing for you right now? To learn and to share what I learn with others so they may be inspired to love learning as well. I believe I am still at an age where my ideas are being molded, along with my worldviews and my character. I know I will make a change in this world somehow, but I must first learn how to do it. I went from wanting to study business and international law/studies to engineering. I went from wanting to provide jobs to the poor to learning how to make countries environmentally safe/healthy. I’ve come to know that the health of our environment determines the health of every person. Is there anything that scares you about the present moment? Honestly, the entire world is facing a clean water crisis, and few people pay enough attention to it. I want to continue teaching others about environmental causes such as this and also human rights causes as in the crisis of the undocumented population and DACA recipients in the U.S. I learn and I share. I live, and I share that too. As a DACA recipient myself, I have tried my best to speak about our cause to big companies as well as to individuals, in conferences as well as through more intimate conversations. What do you think older people can do to support younger people like you? I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without “older” people who simply took their time to sit down and talk to me. We want genuine relationships; we get tired of being told what to do or what we may be doing wrong. We all just need older people to inspire us by listening to us and sharing themselves with us too. The truth is, older people must lead by example. If you listen to me—even though I may be wrong—I will also listen to you. My professor’s simple invitation to watch “The Tiniest Place” changed my entire worldview! He offered to cover the ticket cost if I would only show up. He told me this in our community college’s cafeteria while we were drinking coffee before class. He would always come before our class started so we could go and have coffee with him and talk about life. We need older people to do this with us; we simply need time. What could ALBA do for young people? I think ALBA is already doing what it should do for everyone: revealing truths from around the world and exposing cruelty. More youth need to attend these film festivals; I’m sure it would change many people’s lives. I think having some film showings at different colleges/universities and some genuine conversations about them would really help us as young people. Marina Garde is ALBA’s Executive Director. December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 11
Rally for banished veterans and veterans facing possible deportation (At San Ysidro/Tijuana Border Point of Entry), Feb. 2010. From left to right: Fabian Rebolledo, Salvadore C. Torres, Valente Valenzuela, Manuel Valenzuela. Photo April Arreola, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Human Rights Column
Disposable People: Deporting US Veterans By Paul Cox
The plight of the non-citizen veterans of US military service who have been deported stands as a small but telling example of how our country falls far short of living up to its promises.
his is the era of Bad Faith. The plight of non-citizen veterans of US military service who have been deported stands as a small but telling story. It is one more example of how our country falls far short of living up to its promises of justice and fairness, much less empathy and compassion—or even the dulcet promises of military recruiters.
While every case has its specifics, a typical deported veteran was a legal permanent resident (“green card” holder) when
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recruited or drafted into our military, often with promises of automatic or streamlined citizenship. He—though a few are women—served at least one enlistment (or even made a career of military service), deployed to a combat zone at least once, and received an honorable discharge. He later ran afoul of the law, was convicted, and imprisoned or given probation. After serving his time, he was handed over to Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and shipped back to the country of his birth.
These veterans, who served as long ago as the Vietnam War or as recently as last year, are now stuck in a country they may have left as infants; some do not even speak the language. Separated from their families in the United States, they often have no family, support, or resources, and live in dire circumstances. Miguel Hernandez, a legal permanent resident, joined the US Army in 1970, served a tour in South Korea, and was honorably discharged in 1973. He later became a barber in Riverside, but his life after the military was marred by alcohol. After a DUI and a conviction for bootlegging movies, ICE deported him in June 2017, to Tijuana. His sister brought him clothes from Riverside, and other deported vets helped him find a place to live and jobs as a barber and janitor. Now clean and sober, he is small man at 5’4” and 140 lbs, and dresses neatly for his work. On his way to work last month, he was accosted by thugs who wanted his nice clothes, beaten, and left with a shattered femur. He is eligible for care from the Veterans Administration, but the nearest VA hospital is across the border in La Jolla. His sister enlisted Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA-35th) to get him to the VA hospital via ICE’s Humanitarian Parole program, but they denied it. Other deported veterans and Veterans For Peace supporters have since raised the funds for the needed operation to stitch his bone back together, but he is still in Tijuana, jobless, broke, and recuperating without benefit of the extraordinary rehab care the VA can provide our veterans. Throughout our history, the United States has enlisted noncitizens to help fight our wars. Many men and women, living here legally but not citizens, have stepped up, often with false promises from recruiters of accelerated—or automatic—paths to citizenship. Immigrants currently represent about 13.5 percent of the United States population. They constituted 18 percent of the Army soldiers in World War I and 43 percent of the Union Army during the Civil War. Immigrants currently represent 5 percent of those in the armed forces and about 8 percent of Army recruits last year. The ACLU estimates that there are around 300 US veterans deported to countries around the world; many are sent to Mexico and Central America. Approximately 30 currently live near Tijuana with perhaps that many more in other border towns. Even with honorable discharges, and service connected health problems, none of them can get to the Veterans Administration hospitals in the UNITED STATES for the medical care for which they otherwise qualify. There are now five bills in Congress to address aspects of this bizarre and unfair process. However, only one bill, by Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3d), H.R. 1405—Veterans Visa and Protection Act of 2017 will lead to cancellation of the deportation for some of the veterans, excluding those convicted of violent or national security felonies. While some deported vets were convicted for violence, any extenuating circumstances, such as severe PTSD, cannot be taken into account under this bill, if it even passes in its current form. Still, this legislation would help many deported veterans to get back to the country they put their lives on the line for, and it deserves our support. The other four
bills (H.R.s 386, 2759, 2760, 2761) address the DoD’s policies in the future but do not help the current cohort of deported veterans. Please urge your congressperson to co-sponsor these bills, but especially H.R. 1405. Veterans For Peace has a new chapter in Tijuana, the Baja Mexico Chapter 986, that opened the Deported Veterans Advocacy Project a block from the border. Its purpose is to help veterans with services and information at the very moment they are ejected from the United States. They can use donations to keep the house open, advocate for deported veterans, and to provide legal advice and direct assistance to these men and women who are being treated so very shabbily by our government. They are currently raising funds specifically to send deported veterans to the School Of Americas Watch (SOAW) gathering in Nogales, Arizona, for their annual gathering to draw more attention to the issue. Paul Cox is a recovering Marine of the Vietnam War, and member of Veterans For Peace. He lives in Berkeley with his family and chickens.
ALBA’s BOARD OF GOVERNORS Fraser Ottanelli Chair Peter N. Carroll Chair Emeritus Dan Czitrom Chair Emeritus Sebastiaan Faber Chair Emeritus James D. Fernandez Vice-Chair Gina Herrmann Vice-Chair Ellyn Polshek Vice-Chair Joan Levenson-Cohen Treasurer Aaron Retish Secretary John Brickman Christopher Brooks Robert Coale Burton Cohen Kate Doyle
Anthony L. Geist Angela Giral Peter Glazer Jeanne Houck Tim Johnson Jo Labanyi Peter Miller Josephine Nelson-Yurek Julia Newman Nancy Wallach Nancy Yanofsky
HONORARY BOARD Larry Cox Baltasar Garzón Adam Hochschild Joyce Horman Gabriel Jackson Robin D.G. Kelley Howard Lurie Judy Montell Antonio Muñoz Molina John Sayles James Skillman Bryan Stevenson
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Julio Llamazares (courtesy of the author)
Rescue What We Can: Julio Llamazares and the Fight against Oblivion By Sebastiaan Faber
ulio Llamazares was born in 1955 in Vegamián, a small town in the province of León, in the north of Spain, where his father worked as a teacher. In 1968, Vegamián disappeared from the map. Along with five other towns, it was submerged in a huge artificial lake. The Francoist state, allied with the power companies, forcibly evacuated Llamazares and his family. The displacement marked him for life. His work as a poet, novelist, and essayist deals with memory and loss, embodied in beautiful but ruthless landscapes. All we can do is try to survive in the face of “the river of oblivion.” Like the British writer John Berger, Llamazares is preoccupied with the fast destruction of rural cultures in Europe and elsewhere, along with their millenarian customs, wisdom, and storytelling traditions. His best-known novel, The Yellow Rain (1988), is written in the voice of the very last inhabitant of a ghost town in the mountains of Aragón. His first novel, Wolf Moon (1985), tells the story of anti-Francoist guerrilla fighters from the Civil War who survived for years in the mountains that separate Asturias from León, hunted down mercilessly by the Civil Guard. In Spain, Wolf Moon helped inaugurate what would later become the grassroots call for the “recovery of historical memory.” This movement has sought to rescue victims’ testimony from the war and the Franco years, exhume mass graves, and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes. More than 30 years after it first appeared, the novel is now available in English, translated by Simon Deefholts and Kathryn Phillips-Miles. In late September, I called Llamazares at his home in downtown Madrid. Is it strange to see Wolf Moon appear in English now? Spain and the world have changed quite a bit since 1985. When I wrote it, I was completely unaware of the social and political impact it would have. I just wanted to tell the stories I heard as a kid in the ‘60s from the people in my father’s town, where there were several people who’d fled to the mountains. I didn’t mean to settle any accounts with the past. Of course reading it now is a different thing altogether. For one, the events that the book narrates have receded much farther into the distance. When I wrote it, it was a testimonial novel. For high school or college students today, who haven’t lived Francoism or the years immediately following it, it’s simply a historical novel. The novel is set in León. Is it a coincidence that the historical memory movement, too, started in León, when in the year 2000, Emilio Silva went in search of his grandfather’s remains? In reality, the desire to look at the past with different eyes was emerging all over Spain. Still, León was almost immediately oc14 THE VOLUNTEER December 2017
cupied by Franco’s troops. And, given its landscape, it saw a large number of Republicans flee to the mountains. For that same reason, there was a lot of repression during and after the war. The memory of those years has marked the rural communities deeply. Do you consider Wolf Moon a political novel? Everything is political because everything has a point of view. The novel is told by one of the refugees, not by one of the police pursuing them. But in reality the book is a reflection on the instinct for survival. It could have been situated anywhere and at any time. In that sense it’s a literary novel, not [a] political one. Still, in the last instance, a country’s historical memory are its literature and art. Are young people in Spain interested in the past? Do you still visit high schools? I used to, but much less often now. Kids read less and less. Literature doesn’t interest them. For them, the events in Wolf Moon are as long ago as the Carlist Wars or the French Revolution. They don’t see this history as something that might explain the present. But of course the Spanish present has a lot to do with that history. How do you feel about this waning interest? I accept it with melancholy. The wind of life never stops blowing. Life is a river of oblivion. As writers, our job is to rescue what we can, so that the river doesn’t take it all. Unlike some other members of your literary generation, like Javier Marías, Antonio Muñoz Molina or Arturo Pérez Reverte, you’ve kept to yourself. And unlike them, you don’t occupy a seat at the Royal Academy of Language. How come? (Laughs.) I don’t occupy a seat anywhere. I’m an odd bird in the literary world. Truth be told, I barely have contact with other writers. The public has appreciated my work more than the literary establishment. Maybe they think the Spain I write about is less modern and cosmopolitan—less falsely modern and cosmopolitan—than the image of Spain they’d like to transmit to the outside world to strengthen the country’s brand, la marca España. That said, in literary terms I am part of a very Spanish tradition: Machado, Quevedo, Cervantes, Bécquer. As a writer, I’m not interested in prizes or other forms of recognition, nor am I willing to do what it takes to be considered for them. All I want is to move my readers the same way I’m moved when I write. For me, literature is a goal in itself, not a means to get to something else. A writer, for me, is someone who’d write even if she couldn’t publish ever. In Spain, there are many people who publish books who are not writers in this sense. For them, writing is a means to achieve success or fame or money. Not that I judge them for it. To each their own. You actually publish relatively little. I don’t publish much but I write a lot. I write slowly. Telling stories is easy—but to do so with a maximum emotional intensity takes a lot of work. I once met a reader in Italy who gave me the highest compliment I’ve ever received as a writer. He said that reading my poetry felt like being shocked—as if he’d stuck his fingers in an electrical outlet. That’s my goal. Sebastiaan Faber teaches at Oberlin College.
The Porma reservoir in León, under which Llamazares’ home town lies submerged
Wolf Moon: A Novel about the Anti-Francoist Guerrilla By Julio Llamazares
In the autumn of 1937, after the Republican front had collapsed in Asturias and with any possibility of retreat being prevented by the sea, hundreds of fugitives took refuge on the steep, leafy slopes of the Cantabrian Mountains, their only objective being to escape the repression inflicted by the winning side and to wait for the right moment to regroup and take up arms again, or to escape to one of the areas of the country that were still under government control. Cut down by bullets, many of the fugitives would remain somewhere in those once-peaceful mountains forever. Others, fewer in number, managed, after many hardships, to cross the border into exile. But all of them without exception left the best years of their lives behind them in that struggle as well as an indelible and legendary mark on the collective folk memory. Chapter 1 As evening falls, the wood grouse is singing in the nearby beech groves. The cold cierzo wind suddenly stops, wraps itself around the trees’ sore branches and tears off the last few autumn leaves. Then the black rain, which has been lashing the mountains violently for several days, finally stops. * Ramiro is sitting by the door of the shepherd’s hut where we took refuge the night before last, fleeing from the rain and from death. As he squeezes the cigarette I have just rolled for him between his fingers, morosely and ritualistically, he stares intently at the trail of rocks and mud that the downpour has washed down the side of the mountain. His silhouette is outlined in the doorway against the milky-grey half-light of the evening sky, like the profile of an animal that is motionless, perhaps dead.
‘Well,’ he says. ‘It looks like it’s over.’ He glances towards the corner where his brother Juan, Gildo and I are huddled up next to the fire, burning bitter green wood, trying unsuccessfully to avoid the rain leaking in through the roof. ‘As soon as night falls we’ll cross the mountain pass,’ says Ramiro, lighting his cigarette. ‘We’ll be on the other side by dawn.’ Gildo smiles behind his balaclava, his grey eyes shining. He throws a bundle of branches on to the fire. The flames spring up, warm and cheerful, in the spiral of smoke that rises to meet the rain soaking through the thatched roof. * The moon has not come out tonight either. The night is like a cold black stain on the outline of the beech groves, which climb up the mountain and into the fog like ghostly armies of ice. It smells of rosemary and shredded ferns. Our boots slosh through the mud searching for the elusive surface of the ground with each step. Our submachine-guns shine in the darkness like iron moons. We carry on climbing towards the Amarza Pass, towards the roof of the world and solitude. * Suddenly, Ramiro stops in the middle of the heather. He sniffs the night like an injured wolf. With his one and only hand, he points into the distance. ‘What’s up?’ asks Gildo, his voice barely a murmur in the fog’s frozen lament. ‘Up there. Can’t you hear it?’ The northerly cierzo wind blows down the mountain, whipping through the heather and the silence. It fills the night with its howl. ‘It’s the cierzo,’ I tell him. ‘No, it’s not the cierzo, it’s a dog. Can you hear it now?’ I can now. I can hear it clearly, a sad distant barking, like a groan. A barking that the
fog stretches and drags down the hill. Gildo takes his submachine-gun off his shoulder without making a sound. ‘At this time of year there are no shepherds still up in the passes,’ he says. The four of us now have our weapons in our hands, and, motionless, we listen out for the sudden crack of a branch or an isolated word in the cierzo, scanning the mountain for a still shadow waiting in ambush in the fog. We hear the barking again, more clearly now, in front of us. There is no doubt about it. A dog is chewing the frozen entrails of the night up in the pass. * The barking has guided us through the darkness, along the path that crosses through fields of heather and broom, towards the grey line of the horizon. We are close now. Ramiro signals. Juan, Gildo and I deploy quickly to either side. The climb is now much slower and more difficult, without the dark outline of the path to guide us and with thick undergrowth gripping our feet like animals’ claws buried in the mud. Ramiro’s shadow on the path has stopped again. Now the dog is barking just a few meters away from us. On the grey line of the horizon, behind a line of oak trees, we can make out the shadow of a rooftop, imprecise and frozen, floating in the fog. The shelter and sheepfold at the top of the pass are a mass of crumbling dry-stone walls. A strong smell of excrement and neglect assaults our noses. A smell of solitude. The barking threatens to blow apart the night’s swollen belly. ‘Is anyone there?’ Gildo’s voice rumbles in the silence like damp gunpowder. It forces both the dog and the wind to be quiet, at the same time. ‘Hey, is anyone there?’ Again, silence. Dense and profound. Indestructible. December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 15
The door creaks bitterly as it turns on its hinges. Like it’s half-asleep. The beam of Gildo’s torch slowly ruptures the heavy darkness inside the shelter. Nothing. There is no one there. Only the terrified eyes of the dog in the corner. Ramiro and Juan come out from behind the oak trees and approach the shelter. ‘There’s no one here,’ says Gildo. ‘What about the dog?’ ‘I don’t know. It’s in here. On its own. Scared to death.’ A barely perceptible moan comes from the corner, which is lit up again in the torchlight. Juan goes up to the dog cautiously. ‘OK, OK. Don’t be afraid. Where’s your owner?’ The animal cowers in the straw, its eyes full of panic. ‘He’s got a broken leg,’ says Juan. ‘They must have abandoned him.’ Ramiro puts his pistol back in its holster. ‘Kill it. Don’t leave it to suffer any longer.’ Juan looks at his brother incredulously. ‘It’s what the owner should have done before he left,’ says Ramiro, collapsing heavily on to a pile of straw. * The straw is soaking wet, compacted by the damp. It compresses under my body like soft bread. Outside, the cierzo still beats
violently against the heather and the oak trees. It howls over the roof of the shelter and goes off down the mountain in search of the night’s memory. Opposite the open door, hanging from a branch, the swollen black body of the dog swings gently back and forth. * Someone has lit a lamp in the farmhouse at the bottom of the valley, which nestles peacefully in the foothills of the southern slope of the pass. The babbling of the newborn river greets us, together with the gentle sound of the breeze in the willow groves. It will soon be dawn. It will soon be dawn and, by then, we will have to be hidden away. Daylight is not good for dead men. ‘I’ll go down first,’ says Ramiro, getting up from the stone wall he has been sitting on. ‘You three stay next to the river and cover the retreat. OK?’ Gildo and Juan stamp their thick boots on the wet grass, trying to shake off the cold. Slowly, we begin to descend towards the valley, its higher fields climbing uphill to meet us. The river is swollen by the rains of the past few days. It roars lugubriously under the wooden bridge that Ramiro has just crossed in a low crouch, slowly, not making a sound. Like a hunter who, over time, has come to imitate the animal movements of his quarry.
But the dogs have already caught his scent, and it is not long before the outline of a man, alerted by their barking, appears in the window, which pours a torrent of crimson light on to the water. Ramiro flattens himself against the wall of the farmhouse. ‘Who’s there?’ The man’s voice reaches us, muffled by the frost on the windows and the river’s roar. Ramiro does not reply. Now, a second figure, a woman, appears at the window. They seem to be arguing while, fearfully, they scan the shadows of the night in front of the house. Then they both disappear, and a moment later the light goes out. Beside me, in the willow groves, Gildo and Juan are watching, restless and impatient. A door. The creak of a door. And a voice shouting across the river, ‘Don’t move or I’ll shoot.’ The three of us charge across the bridge towards the house. The barking in the yard gets louder. When we get there Ramiro’s pistol is pointing at the face of a man gripped by terror and the cold. Translated by Simon Deefholts and Kathryn Phillips-Miles. Wolf Moon has been published by Peter Owen, ISBN 9780720619454
Mark Bray (courtesy of Dartmouth College)
Wayne State Hosts ALBA/Susman Lecture By Mel Small
Dr. Mark Bray, controversial author of The Antifa Handbook, delivered the Bill Susman lecture to a lively crowd of 100 at Wayne State University on October 17. His appearance served also as the annual event of the university’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade Scholarship Fund, which was established in 1982 after a benefit concert donated by Pete Seeger. Bray, a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College, outlined the history of anti-fascist movements beginning with Mussolini’s Italy to present-day Charlottesville. He made the case for direct action against fascists, white supremacists, and their ilk, celebrating the successes of such tactics in several European countries. Ron Aronson, Distinguished Professor of the History of Ideas Emeritus at Wayne State, took issue with the efficacy of some of Antifa’s tactics and made the case for organizing mass political movements as the best way to combat the fascists in our midst. His Wayne colleague, Brad Roth, a professor in the Law School as well as the Political Science Department, concentrated on the issue of free speech and how and when, if ever, it is legitimate to try to stop opponents from marching or speaking. In the discussion that followed, members of the audience asked questions and made speeches representing the points of view of Antifa, Democratic Socialists, Trotskyists, libertarians, socialists, anarchists, and even Democrats and liberals. Mel Small is Professor Emeritus of History at Wayne State University in Detroit. 16 THE VOLUNTEER December 2017
Right, top and bottom: POUM offices in Barcelona
Bob Smillie and the Memory of the P.O.U.M. By Mairéad Hache
His association with the POUM cost a British volunteer his life. But how did he die?
Dedicated to the memory of Robert Ramsay “Bob” Smillie
he fate of the POUM, among the most controversial episodes of the Spanish Civil War, is shrouded in taboo. Founded by Andreu Nin and Joaquín Maurín, the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) fought alongside the Republic, defending the workers’ revolution as the road to society’s emancipation. After the so-called Barcelona May Days of 1937, however, the POUM, along with other Anarchist groups, was persecuted and outlawed by the Republican government, which even banned the circulation of its newspaper, La Batalla. The POUM leader-
“We carry on. Our tribute to Bob Smillie” by Dan McArthur.
ship was arrested, imprisoned and, in some cases, killed, triggering one of the darkest moments of the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. Among those who died was Bob Smillie, an international volunteer from Scotland affiliated with the Independent Labour Party.
The ILP Contingent in Spain The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was one of several foreign contingents that provided assistance to the militias of the POUM before the official creation of the International Brigades. Founded in the UK in 1893 by Union Leaders of socialist afDecember 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 17
filiation, the ILP’s relationship with the Labour Party was tense from the outset. In 1931, the ILP refused to accept Labour’s electoral program and ran for elections without Labour’s official support. They won five seats, allowing them to create their own parliamentary group. The ILP took part in the Spanish revolution alongside the POUM, sending a small group of volunteers of diverse backgrounds that ended up including the writer George Orwell. This initial contingent was forged around the figure of John McNair, a delegate of the party in Barcelona and an important point of reference for its members. It also included Irish volunteers such as Paddy Donovan or Patrick O’Hara; volunteers from Wales and the United States; and women: Sybil Wingate began as McNair’s secretary before becoming a nurse and a miliciana on the Huesca front. Together, they made up a centuria—a formation of approximately 100 men—led by Georges Kopp.
Bob Smillie A special figure in the ILP contingent was Robert Ramsay “Bob” Smillie. Born in Larkhall, Scotland, in 1916, Smillie belonged to a family with a long working-class tradition: his grandfather was the famous mining unionist Robert Smillie, one of the ILP’s founders. Bob became intensely involved in the workers’ struggle, officially joining the ILP in 1935 and quickly becoming part of the Guild of Youth organization. In 1936, he arrived in Spain as McNair’s assistant, but soon after requested to go to the war front. It was there that he met George Orwell, who bore witness to Smillie’s courage in Homage to Catalonia. Smillie died in Spain under mysterious circumstances. The fact that the truth about his death still has not been established is due in part to the lack of clarity of the Republic’s institutions. We know that in the wake of the Barcelona May Days, at the height of the POUM’s persecution by Republican authorities, Smillie was arrested in Figueres, north of Barcelona, when he was about to cross the French border. He was charged with traveling with war material, as he was apparently carrying some empty grenades. He was transferred to Barcelona and from there to Valencia, where he remained officially confined in the Model Prison awaiting trial, accused of rebellion. While his comrades of the POUM and delegates of the ILP in Spain tried to visit him in jail and resolve the situation, the authorities unexpectedly reported that Smillie had died of appendicitis or peritonitis during his transfer from the Valencia prison to the Provincial Hospital in the same city. Smillie was buried hurriedly in Valencia, on June 12, 1937. His comrades and political representatives at the ILP were notified after the fact. Because no one was allowed to see the body, rumors surrounding his death began spreading quickly. Some members of the ILP, among them David Murray, accepted the authorities’ official conclusion that Smillie had died of natural causes. Other comrades and witnesses were convinced that he had been another victim of the Stalinist purge. Strong state18 THE VOLUNTEER December 2017
ments in support of this theory came from Ethel McDonald, a Scottish anarchist who provided English-language coverage of the war through the CNT’s radio station in Barcelona, and who was herself arrested in the wake of the May Days. Georges Kopp wrote an account of Smillie’s death in which he mentioned another witness: the German anarchist Gustav Doster, member of the DAS (Deutsche AnarchoSyndikalisten), an organization that had been operative in Barcelona since 1934. Doster, too, was captured after the May Days, along with other German anarchists, and transferred to Valencia. Sometime later, he assured Kopp that he had been imprisoned with Smillie. Curiously, there is clear evidence that Doster was in fact held at the checa of Santa Úrsula, one of the centers of the Soviet secret police (GPU) in the city of Valencia, located a few minutes from the Provincial Hospital (which is now a Municipal Library). The Valencia lawyer Francisco Pérez Verdú, who was in charge of keeping the files of the foreign prisoners detained in those years, gives a good account of the situation. Did Smillie die of natural causes while being transferred from the Valencia Model Prison to the hospital, or did he pass through— and possibly die at—the checa? Strangely, historians who have tried to clear up the mystery surrounding Smillie’s death, such as John Newsinger and Tom Buchanan, have not consulted contemporary Spanish sources, including the testimony by Pérez Verdú. Similarly, Daniel Gray’s Homage to Caledonia: Scotland and the Spanish Civil War doesn’t cite Spanish sources on the May Days and their consequences, which include the arrest of the POUMistas. (Gray does mention the dispute between Murray and Smillie’s father, who in 1938 accused Murray of hiding crucial information about the death of his son.) Even those who accepted the official account that Smillie died of appendicitis never inquired about the location of the Scotsman’s grave. As we know, Smillie’s death is not the only episode left unresolved; so is the disappearance of Andreu Nin.
Memory Smillie’s memory lives on in books like We Carry On: Our Tribute to Bob Smillie, by Dan McArthur, with a foreword by James Maxton. It’s one in several works that aim to recover the memory of the POUM and its allies, focused mainly on clarifying the causes of their persecution. Further research on this period would be a good thing, helping to explain perhaps the development of the Spanish left since 1978—including its persistent divisions, which have surfaced in the recent conflict over selfdetermination and independence in Catalonia. Unveiling the mysteries surrounding the disappearance and death of figures such as Andreu Nin or Bob Smillie may lay the foundation for a fraternal gathering of the different forces that make up the left. Only then will we be able to focus on fighting the common enemy—fascism. Antifascism, after all, is not just a political position. First and foremost, it will always be a humanist position. Mairéad Hache is a writer and activist. She published in La Directa and Nueva Cultura and is coordinator of the traveling exhibit “Espacios de memoria: las Brigadas Internacionales.”
Demonstrators in Madrid calling for dialogue. Oct. 7, 2017.
Understanding the Catalan Crisis: Emilio Silva on Winners and Losers The escalating conflict between Spain and Catalonia led to the country’s deepest constitutional crisis since the transition to democracy. Journalist Emilio Silva reflects on the short- and long-term impact. “For someone on the left, the confusion in terms of priorities and alliances is hard to understand.”
n Friday October 27, a narrow majority of deputies in the autonomous parliament of Catalonia voted to make Catalonia an independent republic. The vote occurred 26 days after more than two million Catalans had cast a ballot for independence in a referendum that the Spanish courts had declared illegal—and despite the fact that Spain sent in thousands of police to prevent the Catalans from voting. Also on October 27, the Spanish senate in Madrid approved a set of measures to impose direct rule on Catalonia, revoking the selfgovernment that the region has enjoyed since the adoption of Spain’s current constitution in 1978. As the central government in Madrid, headed up by Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Partido Popular (PP), fired the Catalan President and his cabinet, they immediately called for regional elections on December 21. Meanwhile, the Catalan politicians who helped lead the way to independence face serious criminal charges. The dramatic developments of late October followed years of escalation in the
standoff between Catalonia and the Spanish state. The conflict cuts across the political spectrum. While the parties pushing for independence include the center-right PDeCat, the center-progressive Catalan Left Republicans (ERC) and the radicalleft, anticapitalist CUP, the pro-Spain parties calling for direct rule include the ruling PP, the neoliberal Ciudadanos, and the Socialist Party, which has also supported the imposition of direct rule. Podemos has opposed both direct rule and unilateral independence, calling for a binding referendum on independence as Scotland was allowed to celebrate. In late October, we spoke with Emilio Silva, founder of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, about the short- and long-term impact of these events. Who will come out winning from this crisis? It’s hard to know who comes out winning, and even harder who will come out losing. In fact, one of the biggest benefi-
ciaries of the crisis is the Partido Popular. The standoff between Madrid and Barcelona has reconciled the party with its electorate. The noise generated by this process allows the PP to hide the numerous corruption cases for which it’s currently on trial, and to pass several political measures that aren’t very popular. The referendum of October 1 allowed Rajoy to return to the good graces of an electorate that was bothered by the PP’s corruption or its management of the economic crisis. Those voters have now come back to the fold because they support Rajoy government’s defense of Spanish unity. You could almost say Rajoy and his voters are living a kind of new romance. Beneficiaries, too, are the Catalan right, which has its own corruption cases going back to the era that Jordi Pujol was president. Those cases, too, have ended up practically buried in the media and disappeared from the map of public opinion. Seen from Barcelona, the conflict with Madrid has helped improve the image of the Catalan right. President Puigdemont, for example, is now seen by many as a cenDecember 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 19
“Rajoy and his voters are living a kind of new romance.” trist, almost progressive politician. Even in the speech he gave after Rajoy fired him as President, Puigdemont spoke of a Catalan Republic whose citizens would live in equality, liberty, and fraternity. Well, that’s the same Puigdemont who, as mayor of the city of Girona, had put padlocks on supermarket dumpsters to prevent those who had no other resources from taking food from them. In this identity dance, the Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, have also benefited. In May 2011, they were terribly repressive of the protest movement, and during a protest on November 14, 2012, it was the Mossos who blinded a protester with a rubber bullet. Major Trapero, who until recently headed up the Mossos, was among the staunchest defenders of those actions. Who comes out losing? Everyone who was already on the losing side before. They lost during the process and they’ll continue to after it’s over. I’m talking about those who are occupying the most socially fragile spaces of Spanish society. What has this process done to change the actual, objective living conditions of someone who has had to drop out of school at 16, who will be cheap labor his whole life, and will not be able to escape from that situation because those politically responsible have not bothered to give him opportunities to get ahead? The whole thing reminds me of the image of two elephants who destroy the grass they’re standing on when they’re fighting—but also when they’re making love. Among the losers, too, are the movements fighting for social and political causes that the noise generated by the Catalan process are keeping from view. And perhaps there is a Spanish left that’s lost the opportunity to demand all the “rights to decide” we don’t yet have: whether we want to live in a monarchy or a republic, for example; whether we want the rich to pay more or fewer taxes; or whether the state should stop giving 11 billion euros to the Catholic Church every year. There are 20 THE VOLUNTEER December 2017
many things we’ve not been allowed to decide on since the return of democracy 40 years ago. And this could have been a good opportunity to put those on the table. What has the crisis revealed about the Partido Popular (PP), the Socialist Party (PSOE), and Ciudadanos? On the one hand, it has revealed that we continue to live in the 19th century. Spain still hasn’t solved the tensions from that time. Back then, the more conservative liberales pushed for centralization, while the more progressively minded among them were willing to cede some power to the peripheries. Those positions are now represented by the PP and the PSOE. That said, it’s also become clear that PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos form a front capable of blocking any real change. We can’t forget that ten years ago, the politician with best approval ratings was then-Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, because in those years he dared to defend a new Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia. But it was the PSOE itself that, through parliamentary procedure, trimmed that same statute again. [Although the new statute was approved by Spanish parliament in 2006, the PP filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court that, in 2010, declared it unconstitutional.] The fact that PP and Ciudadanos are on the same page is natural, because they belong to the same political right. But the Socialists could have applied pressure and helped define different positions. Then again, this is the PSOE that has allowed Rajoy to return as Prime Minister. In fact, when it comes to the vision of the Spanish state, the PSOE has been on the same page as the PP for decades. What has the crisis revealed about Podemos? Podemos has seen itself in a very complicated bind. One the one hand, it’s the largest national party to support a binding referendum on self-determination in Cat-
alonia—although it’s also made clear that it would prefer Catalonia not to become independent. What Podemos aspires to is a new state structure in which Catalonia would find a better fit, have more competencies and enjoy more self-rule. On the other hand, there are many things on which the Podemos leadership in Madrid and some representatives of Podemos in Catalonia don’t see eye to eye. This has complicated the situation tremendously, and will continue to complicate it in the run-up to the Catalan elections in December. And even Podemos has not been able to come up with specific proposals for a new, multi-national governance structure. If it doesn’t come up with them before the Catalan elections, it will pay in terms of votes. Podemos has done really well in the regions with historically strong nationalist movements. Its good results in Catalonia and the Basque Country have been perhaps most surprising. But the situation in Catalonia now may well weaken Podemos electorally. At the same time, we don’t know what electoral price Podemos will have to pay for its position on Catalonia in the rest of Spain, either. There are many on the left, even among Podemos’s own constituency, who don’t understand why Podemos would allow a binding referendum on independence in Catalonia. When Carolina Bescansa, one of Podemos’s original founders and a great expert in electoral sociology, pointed out that Podemos should be talking more about Spain, Podemos removed her from her seat on the Constitutional Commission in the Spanish parliament. What do you make of the manifestations we’ve seen of extreme right-wing Spanish nationalism? The whole process has also encouraged a much nastier, more conservative Spanish right, which is much closer to Francoist culture than it normally appears to be. But the Spanish right is self-enclosed. The fact that international media like CNN or the New York Times put the police repres-
“The process has encouraged a much nastier, more conservative Spanish Right.” sion of the October 1 referendum on their front pages may irritate Rajoy, but doesn’t really hurt him at all. Two critical lines in a low-quality, rabid-right newspaper like La Razón would be much more harmful. Those of us in the rest of Spain have seen Spanish flags appear hanging off balconies, and the recovery of authoritarian attitudes in day-to-day life. We’re fearful that the hard right is busy rearming. This would have serious consequences in many areas of society, including the defense of historical memory. What has surprised you most in the Catalan conflict?
Perhaps the volatility of symbols and their meaning. Just a couple of years ago, the Mossos d’Esquadra, the autonomous Catalan police, was hated among broad sectors of the left who’d suffered their brutal repression. Now for many they’ve become a symbol of all that’s good. Personally, as someone who considers himself an internationalist, I have been surprised to see how the Catalan left has supported the pro-independence Catalan right. The fact that the Left Republicans (ERC) or the CUP have voted in favor of budgets that, for example, included a thirty-million dollar subsidy for private schools that separate students by gender,
Saving Spanish Lives on the Volga, Summer 1942 By Glennys Young
Alejandra Soler Gilabert, who died in Valencia, Spain last March, was one of the Spanish teachers who worked with the nearly 3,000 children who were evacuated to the Soviet Union during the Spanish Civil War. Soler is credited with saving the lives of 14 children during the battle at Stalingrad—the turning point of the Soviet Union’s military struggle against German fascism. But when the historian Glennys Young interviewed her a year before her death, Soler refused to see herself as a war hero. Her adventurous life, marked by a strong political commitment, illustrates the long-term impact of the Civil War.
orn in Valencia, Alejandra Soler became a political activist during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-1930). As one of the first women at a Spanish university, and a pioneering female athlete, she joined the Federación Universitaria Escolar (FUE), a progressive student organization. In 1934, she met the Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria), with whom
Alejandra Soler with Arnaldo Azzati (left)
and that help erode other public services, not just education but also healthcare. This confusion in terms of priorities and alliances is hard to understand for someone on the left. After all, if Catalonia had managed to become independent, what we would have seen would have been the birth of another capitalist state. Emilio Silva is a journalist and founder of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, winner of the 2015 ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. Sebastiaan Faber teaches at Oberlin College.
she would cross paths later in the USSR, and whom she described to me as a “charming woman.” After the brutal repression of the Asturias miners’ revolt that year, Soler joined the Communist Party. When the Civil War interrupted her doctoral work, she took to teaching history and geography. After the Republic’s defeat, Soler and her husband, the communist journalist Arnaldo Azzati Cutanda (1913-1986), were forced into exile. They crossed the French border at separate times, not knowing if they would be reunited. Alejandra left Spain at La Junquera in February 1939, “a few hours before Franco’s army arrived at the border.” The pain of leaving Spain and her life to that point was still vivid on the day we spoke. “I left everything behind,” she told me. “And I was alone.” Alejandra, desperate to find her husband, sent letters to all the refugee camps in France. It turned out he was interned at Argelés-sur-Mer. The couple was set to accept exile in Mexico when Arnaldo was told that they were needed in the USSR: Arnaldo as a journalist, and she as a teacher. Alejandra arrived in Leningrad in June 1939 and was soon reunited with her husband in Moscow. At that point Alejandra knew no Russian. As she began to learn the language, she also started to teach Spanish language, literature, history, and geography in one of the 22 homes provided by the Soviet government for Spanish children. Hers—Casa no. 12, near Pushkin Square—housed children 12 and older. The Nazi invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941 stunned Soler, even though, as she put it in her autobiography, “our subconscious expected it and feared it.” In Moscow, where the civilian population was tasked with military responsibilities, Alejandra and Arnaldo assumed the “mission” of defusing incendiary bombs that the Germans were dropping on a city they thought comprised of wooden buildings. Contingent forces beyond Alejandra’s control propelled her to Stalingrad in wartime. The German army reached the outskirts of Moscow by the end of October. Casa no. 12 had to leave the capital. Soon after Soler left with the children, Arnaldo was sent to Ufa, southwest of the Ural mountains, to continue his broadcasting work. December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 21
Soler was responsible for between 40 and 50 children evacuated to Stalingrad on a boat that included youngsters from both her Casa and that of Casa no. 2, “home” to younger Spaniards. The boat made its way on tributaries before reaching the Volga. After arriving in Stalingrad, the contingent was taken to the village Leninsk, about 40 kilometers east of the city. Soler continued to teach the Spanish children, acted as their second mother, and served as secretary of the Komsomol cell. In the summer of 1942, following an order from the Soviet Ministry of Education, she led 14 Spanish boys and the manager of the Casa in Leninsk to renovate a new home for Spanish children on the other side of the Volga—that is, closer to German forces. In her autobiography, Soler states that, from the outset, she thought this mission was “madness”: “exactly [at this time] the Germans had begun an offensive towards the southwest, and in our movement we were going to run into this offensive, which, very probably, the Russian army would not be able to stop.” Indeed, in mid-July, the German Sixth Army had launched its advance into the Don Bend. Distressed by the Ministry’s plan, Soler complained to Soviet authorities in Stalingrad. They called her a “defeatist.” Deciding that wartime discipline required her to fulfill the order, she reluctantly carried out the mission. Soler and her group reached the site for the new Casa, located in a Don Cossack village, probably near the town of Kalach, on the banks of the Don River, likely by mid-July 1942. After three or four days working on renovations, her worst fears materialized: the Germans launched a paratrooper attack not far from the new Casa. Retreating Soviet soldiers, almost certainly of the 62nd or 64th Soviet Armies, occupied the home, protecting her and the Spanish youth. After a few days, the soldiers and the Spanish contingent retreated to Stalingrad by train, without incident, even though there were intermittent bombings on the railroad line. By the time they reached the city, Stalingrad was an imperiled “bunker,” as Soler put it. Just after they arrived, a bomb fell on a trench in which another group of Spanish youth and their teacher, Félix Allende, had taken refuge. All were killed. Soler knew she needed to get her group back to Leninsk on the other side of the Volga. Soler persuaded Red Army personnel to take her group to safety. “We had to convince the soldiers to extract us from the city,” she later wrote, “and take us to the other bank. It wasn’t easy, but after much pleading I was able to convince them.” Her idea was to use a military pontoon with “a gigantic platform that carried war materiel, tanks, cannons” to transport her group. With bombs raining over them, she ferried the boys across the river in two groups of seven. “At the outskirts is where the fronts of [the battle of ] Stalingrad were,” she told me: “We were in the middle . . . in the center of the battle. . . [A]ll the bridges had been destroyed. In Stalingrad, the battle went house by house, street by street. And it took a long time”. In convincing Red Army officers to allow her to use the pontoon, and in ferrying the youth to safety, she was telescoping the skills she had honed in Spain, France, and Moscow. Building on her innate tenacity and intelligence, she had learned to see herself as a woman who, while small in stature, could stand up to men, no matter their rank or profession. She had trained herself to find a solution to seemingly intractable problems, confident that, whatever the odds, she could find the way out. By any definition, saving the boys’ lives was heroic. But Soler 22 THE VOLUNTEER December 2017
refused to see herself as a hero. As a modest person, she admired humility in others as well, including her husband Arnaldo. When I spoke with her, it was difficult to understand how she wanted to be regarded. As she told the Stalingrad story, she often referred to things happening “at that moment,” as if indicating that she merely did what “the moment” required of her—as would any human being with a conscience and a sense of solidarity. “Solidarity,” she emphasized to me in fact, was what impressed her most about the USSR: “They cared about each other. They were open. Very open.” The youths saved by Soler entered different walks of Soviet life after the war. Ángel Lago, his brother Francisco Lago, and Daniel Monzó worked in factories, contributing to the reconstruction of the Soviet economy and infrastructure. Marcelino Galán became an architect in Moscow. Gerardo Viana Gómez de Foncea studied chorus and ballet at the Krupskaya Institute of Culture in Leningrad, and would later become a dance master in Riga. The boy she called, in Russian, Navarro “El Chornyi” (Navarro the “Black One”)—likely Vicente Navarro—became an engineer. The nephew of Spanish Communist leader José Díaz became an instructor at the M.V. Frunze Military Academy. Quite a few of the 14 joined the Spanish Communist Party after the war. Their lives reached beyond Soviet borders. At least two of the 14 youth were among the hundreds of Hispanosoviéticos whom the USSR sent to Cuba in the early 1960s to aid Fidel Castro’s revolution, working as military advisors, translators, teachers, or technical specialists. Ramón Aldazábal Luri became a translator in Cuba, where he likely met La Pasionaria’s nephew, Amelio Pérez Ibárruri. Viana Gómez de Foncea was among the 1,900 Spaniards (former niños, political exiles, ex-officers and soldiers in the Blue Division, pilots, and aviators) who returned to Franco’s Spain between 1956 and 1959. Back in Bilbao, Viana Gómez brought his insider knowledge of Soviet socialism to a Spain where everyday encounters with those who had lived outside the country, let alone in the USSR, were rare. When Aldazábal Luri and others returned from Spain to the USSR, they in turn brought first-hand experience of everyday life on the other side of the “Iron Curtain.” Alejandra Soler Gilabert survived the perilous journey across the Volga and the war. She never stopped being a political activist, even after she lost many of her closest compatriots, including her husband Arnaldo. After World War II, Soler returned to teaching translation and was named head of the Department of Romance Languages in 1958 at the USSR’s Higher School of Diplomacy. Many years later, in 2012, when she was 99, the former student activist became a public figure in her native Valencia when she championed the cause of students protesting cutbacks in higher education in what became known as the Valencian Spring. The students in turn adopted her as the abuela of their movement. In 2015, when a left-wing coalition brought an end to decades of conservative rule in the city of Valencia, the new mayor, Joan Ribó, named Alejandra honorary citizen. She died this past March, aged 103. ¡Hasta siempre, Alejandra! Glennys Young is Jon Bridgman Endowed Professor in History and Professor of International Studies at the University of Washington
Joan Sales, Uncertain Glory. Foreword by Juan Goytisolo. Translated by Peter Bush. New York: New York Review of Books. 2017. 457 pages. By Joan Ramon Resina
What drives men to war?
oan Sales’ Uncertain Glory is one of the most distinguished novels on the Spanish Civil War. No other work on that legendary struggle compares with it in psychological profundity. Reminiscent of 19th-century Russian literature in its large-canvas format, this novel grew considerably between its publication in 1956 and the fourth expanded edition of 1971. Although a French translation of an earlier version was published in 1962, and David Rosenthal’s unrevised English version appeared in a non-commercial edition shortly after his death in 1992, the book had to wait for Peter Bush’s translation to be available to English-language readers. Considerable obstacles lay in the path of this novel. First, the Franco censorship. The regime could ill tolerate a Republican account of the Civil War, let alone a Catalan one. It did not help either that its author was a former Republican army officer or that, after exile in France, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, he had become a cultural activist through his publishing venture, El Club dels Novel·listes. After Franco’s death, it was, ironically, the leftist critical establishment that dismissed Sales’ book for its Catholicism. It has taken decades and the decline of the PSUC’s influence among the Catalan intelligentsia for the human dimension and indisputable value of this novel to be recognized. Uncertain Glory does not peddle orthodox religion. The Archbishop of Paris refused to grant it doctrinal approval when asked by the French publisher. Sales’ faith, an expression of man’s metaphysical search in the face of the absurd, has nothing to do with National Catholicism and much to do with the existentialist disquiet of French writers like Jacques Maritain, Simone Weil and Albert Camus. While he denounces religious persecution in rearguard Barcelona, a fateful episode that leftist historians have downplayed or tried to justify, it does not give a clean bill of health to the Bishops’ support of the coup d’état or liken it to a crusade. Rather than in dogmatic certainties, Sales pries into the uncertain-
ty announced in the title, an allusion to the verse “The uncertain glory of an April day” from Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. The April day referred to is April 14, 1931, the date on which Francesc Macià proclaimed the birth of the Catalan Republic in a Federation of Iberian republics hours before Madrid proclaimed a unified Spanish republic. But for a few days, the uncertain glory could also allude to the official end of the war, March 28, the day Madrid fell to Franco’s army. Or then again, it could be a metaphor for the false security of youth. In any case, the reference to the precariousness of earthly glory casts a pall of skepticism over the hubris of military victory. The bulk of the novel takes place on the Aragón front and in Barcelona. It is divided into three parts, each narrated by a different character. The first narrator, Lluís, is serving in a militarized battalion after having been posted, like Sales had, in an anarchist militia unit. His college friend Juli Soleràs is a disenchanted intellectual who has pierced through the absurdity of the war and understood its senseless, iterative character. Soleràs sees the meaning of existence expressed through a priori categories of the macabre and the obscene, but like the absurd man of existentialism, he refuses any notion of transcendence. He fights the war senselessly, without hatred, according to his notion that people should kill each other “like good brothers.” His perception of the absurdity allows him to switch sides without remorse, convinced of the indignity of victory. “At the end of the day, who is Soleràs?” asks Lluís. “A hypothesis perhaps? An enigma?” December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 23
Sexuality and aggression are of course the primary drives in Freud’s psychoanalysis. The pairing of Eros and Thanatos is depicted in the episode of the maid who seduces Lluís into forging a marriage certificate in articulo mortis, which allows her to claim the title and property of her employer, an aristocrat who was killed by the anarchists. While searching for the certificate in a monastery, Lluís finds the mummies of monks, which anarchists had taken out of their niches and placed at the foot of the altar in a mock wedding scene. Someone had inserted a candle into one of the mummies to mimic the male organ. “What do we know of our instincts?” asks Lluís. He will soon learn something about them on discovering that he has been manipulated for the sake of a woman’s ambition. Later, when he suspects that she may have induced her employer’s execution, the image of a praying mantis eating the head of the sexually engaged male comes to his mind. In the meantime, Trini, Lluís’s girlfriend and narrator of part II, has been attending clandestine masses in Barcelona attics, a modern variant of the Roman catacombs. In the midst of disaster, she discovers her religious faith. Although the single parent of a child by Lluís, from whom she has become estranged, she declines Soleràs’s offer of marriage: “I feel your suggestion is absurd because of the very things I admire in you. You are too intelligent and love is a jungle. A couple of wild animals howling on the edge of a precipice.” The third part is narrated by Cruells, a soldier with a vocation for the priesthood. He voices Sales’ grim view of life as a path to the crucifixion and of war as the striving of blind masses of lonely men to achieve their particular crucifixions. “The summons of crucifixion… isn’t that what war is all about?” What drives men to seek death in such hecatombs? “Not the cause—nobody knows what that is—but glory, which is something everyone feels. But what glory, O my God, what kind of glory, if nobody will ever know the names of so many soldiers who have fallen in so many battles?”
Uncertain Glory refuses a heroic vision of the war and avoids the Manichean representation of the conflict in most Civil War literature from the 1940s and 50s. It shows war as chaotic and undignified. It can only be redeemed by confronting life’s deepest misery, its sheer transience, and finding release from it in the sense of eternity that must be purchased with tragedy. Bush’s translation skillfully conveys Sales’ simple, elegant Catalan. It succeeds in rendering a classic into a language whose natural rhythm and phrasing differ substantially from those of the original version. Joan Ramon Resina is Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultures at Stanford University. His most recent book is Josep Pla: Seeing the World in the Form of Articles (Toronto).
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Poetry Feature Anonymous
The old Communist behind the bar is decanting rot-gut red into green bottles, pours me a taste. He’d fought in Spain with the Lincoln Brigade and in the big war that followed. He has stories. Oral history we call it: I want his past, he hopes for my future. He pours, I drink. So we begin. Depression days, hunger on the streets, he complains to a priest who titles him a Communist: his calling. He won’t speak about battles, nothing of his Silver Star at Anzio, liberating a Nazi camp. He blesses his luck. Once he aimed his rifle at an American officer shooting German POWs but had no qualms about killing the SS. No poetry lost, he says. Later I find ten-dollar bills saved in the pages of his favored poets, Blake and Yeats. When we walk through the zoo admiring caged monkeys, he talks about a Nuremberg Tribunal for Richard Nixon. At the ball park, he refuses to stand for the flag. Cheer up, he chirps, the worst is yet to come. While sleuthed by the FBI, he persuades an agent to give him free rides; he can live without a car. At his job in a mayonnaise factory, he declines promotions so immigrant workers get better pay. One night he warns me his comrades are dying fast. He says, I’ll be seeing you soon—as a ghost. We scatter his ashes, as he wished, with the fish outside the Golden Gate where no one could find him.
--Peter Neil Carroll
“Anonymous” was first published in the Chiron Review (Summer 2017).
December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 25
CONTRIBUTIONS RECEIVED FROM 8/1/2017 TO 10/31/2017 Benefactor ($5,000 and above)
Estate of Ethel Tobach • Puffin Foundation, Ltd.
Kate Doyle • Estate of Norman Eisner • NYC Department of Cultural Affairs • Len & Nancy Tsou
Henry Allen • Anonymous • Ellen Bogolub • Peter N. Carroll in memory of Jack Lucid, VALB 1915-1977 • Sherna Gluck • Fraser Ottanelli • Edith Oxfeld • Catherine & Robert Roth • Paul Schechter • Nadrian Seeman • Michael Sennett in memory of Bill Sennett, vet • Jeri Wellman & Nicholas Bryan in memory of Ed & Estelle Wellman
William Allison • Grace B. Anderson • Michael Apple • Margarita Asencio-Lopez in memory of the unknown volunteer from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico • Michael Batinski • Pilar Vico Bhattacharya in memory of Irving & Freda Weissman • Steve Birnbaum • Frederick Blanchard in honor of the Brigade • Michael Blum in memory of Sam Krieger• Eric Botts • David Cane in memory of Lawrence Cane, VALB • Daniel J. Czitrom in honor of Marina Garde • Steve Dinnen in honor of Jack Shafran • Hank Doherty • Claire Feder • Candi Gainesville • Edward Garcia • Andrés A. Gonzales • Richard Horvitz • Steven Jonas, MD, in memory of Edward K. Barsky, MD • Jack Levine • Gene Marchi • Gerald Meyer • James & Juliane Monroe in honor of Americo Castro • Michael J. Organek • Lewis Pepper in memory of Abraham Pepper • Ivette Perfecto • Jacques Rieux • Sue Rosenthal in honor of the last parade • Marc Shanker • Irene & Eric Solomon in memory of Ben Leider • Karen Sullivan • Patricia Tanttila • Thurman Wenzl • Susan Wolff Wallis in memory of Milton Wolff • Chic Wolk • David Wyckoff • Jay Zukerman
Jean Adelman • Everett Aison in memory of Irving Fajans • James Albers in memory of all volunteers who gave their lives as “premature anti-fascists” • Charles Allen • Jenny Allen • Mark Alper • AmazonSmile Foundation • Kendall Anthony • Mike Arnott in memory of the Scots who fought with the Lincolns • John August • Elaine Babian • Michael Bailey • Joan E. Balter • Charles Barrett, in memory of the District 65 UAW members who fought in Spain • Henry Barton • Gordon Baxter • Paul Beach • Selma Benjamin • Philip Bereano in memory of my parents, Leon & Beatrice • Judith & Cyrus Berlowitz in memory of Clara Philipsborn, 5th Regiment • Juliet Bernstein in honor of all those who went to fight in Spain • John & Susan Boland • Ellen Broms in memory of Harry Kleiman • Tibby Brooks • Richard Brouillette • Paul Bundy • Marion Burns in memory of Harry Randall, ALB photographer • Ronald Calogeras • Philip Carroll • Darlene Ceremello • William Chandler • Nancy & Ira Cohen • Martin Comack in memory of the Irish volunteers • Lawrence Craig • Barbara Dane • Alice Dekker • S. Leonard DiDonato • Richard Dods • Donald Donato • Alvin & Rochelle Dorfman • Daphne Douglas • Alice Dubiel • Joshua Dubin in memory of Norman Nathan Berkowitz • Jesse Ehrenberg in memory of Myron Ehrenberg • Sebastiaan Faber • Al & Mary Fenske in honor of class fighters everywhere • James Fernandez • William Fisher • Paul V. Fitzgerald • Stanford Forrester • Jeffrey Frace • Gene Friedlander • Alex Gabriles • Marina Garde • Jonathan Garfield • Cleo Gorman in memory of Edie Muldoon • Neal Gosman in memory of Pat Garafolo • Geraldine S. Grant • James Grant • Andrew Haimowitz • Victor & Alexandra Halitsky • John Hart • Noel Hartman • Kendra Heisler in memory of Robert George Thompson • Herbert Herman • Gina Herrmann • George Hutchinson • Gabriel Jackson • Robert Jackson • Zachary M. Jackson • Gloria Joseph • John L. Kailin • David Karpe • Marlin R. Keshishian • Aloha Keylor in honor of my father, Howard Keylor • Sandy Kilpatrick • Ethel & Keith Kirk in memory of Hilda Roberts • Fran Krieger-Lowitz in memory of David Wills • Beatrice Krivetsky in honor of Corinne Thornton • John Kyper • Ted Lahm • Diane Laison in memory of Jules Splaver • Thomas S. Larson • P. Herbert & Gloria Leiderman • Rob Lerman • Eric Lessinger • Milton Lessner in honor of my cousin, Nate Abramovitz • Eugene & Elizabeth Levenson • Nikolai Lieders • Rob Liguori • Paul Limm • David Lyons • Sylvia Manheim in honor of Jerome H. Manheim 26 THE VOLUNTEER December 2017
CONTRIBUTIONS (CONT.) & Samuel Nuchow • Madeline Marina in memory of my husband, Miguel, a captain in the Republican army • Margaret & Arnold Matlin • Marc Mauer • Thomas Mayer • Albert McDonald • Andrew W. McKibben • Timothy Michel • Nancy Mike-Johnson • Nina Miller • Ruth Misheloff • James Moore • Alfonso Morales • Edward Morman in memory of Mac Morman • Sue Morris in honor of Joe Brandt • Eva Moseley in memory of Max Kurz • Rachel Murdy • Melvin Natinsky • Martha Nencioli • Ann M. Niederkorn • Peter Nimkoff in honor of the Volunteers and their comrades in Spain • Mike Nussbaum • Michael O’Connor • Pam O’Neill • Marilyn Oberg • Nicholas Orchard • Ira Oser • Ann & Vittorio Ottanelli • Paypal Charitable Giving Fund • Albert J. Penta • Familia Humanes Perez • Clayton Peterson • Richard Peterson • Augusta Petroff in memory of William (Bill) Susman • Jan Phillips • Raphael Podolsky • David & Adele Politzer • Louise Popkin • Virginia Port • Martha Pyle • Steven Queener in memory of Dr. Stern • Michael Quigley • Leonard Ramirez in memory of Kerry Slocum • Marilyn Ekdahl Ravicz • Victoria Reiss • Jules Rensch • Jennifer Riley in memory of Edwin Rolfe • Mona Roberts • Hazel Rochman • Suzanne & Alan Jay Rom in memory of Samuel S. Schiff • Constancia Romilly • Miki Rosen • John Roth • Blas Ruiz • Aracelly A. Santana • Dorothy Scheff • Herman Schmidt • Ruth Schultz • David Schweickart • Douglas & Karen Seidman • Edward Shanahan • Ellen Shatter • Daniel Shively • Teresa Shtob • Daniel J. Skinner • Melvin Small • Gary Smith • Marc Snir • Jean Sommer • Ida Sorscher • Michael Sperber • Janet Stecher • Kenneth Stern • Merle Stern • Naomi Stern • Wes Stiner • Tito Super • Joel Swadesh • Harvey Tanttila • Margaret Tanttila • Bahram Tavakolian in memory of Faridoon Tavakolian • James & Christine Walters • Thomas Wineholt • Kelsey Woods
THANK YOU To our dear friends Ethel Tobach, Norman Eisner, Meyer S. Gunther, and Mark Levinson, who extended their love and generosity to ALBA by being part of The Jarama Society and leaving a gift in their will. For more information on The Jarama Society, please contact ALBA’s executive director Marina Garde at 212 674 5398 or email@example.com
FROM THE ALBA OFFICE It’s been a year of challenges and setbacks but also of courage and important lessons. We are incredibly grateful for your support throughout this year, which came in many forms. Thank you for expanding our possiblitilies and making a difference in our work. Please know that we are here for you and count on you. With all our gratitude and warmest wishes for the New Year!
Marina Garde, executive director Michael McCanne, executive assistant Andres F. Carrasco, educational coordinator December 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 27
FOR THOSE WHO CAME AFTER: SONGS OF RESISTANCE FROM THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR A new interpretation of ten iconic songs from the Spanish Civil War
Recorded live at the Japan Society in 2016 commemorating the 80th anniversary of the war, the album features a fragment of an interview with Abe Osheroff and the voice of Delmer Berg, with liner notes by Adam Hochschild.
Now available at firstname.lastname@example.org $20 (for domestic orders. Price includes shipping & handling.) All proceeds from the record are being generously donated to ALBA.
The opening credits of the new PBS series on the Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick feature this photograph of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade protesting the war (Washington, D.C., Oct. 1967; White House Photograph Office).
END OF THE YEAR BRUNCH for the ALBA Community
Please join us for brunch and a conversation with activist and writer Leslie Cagan
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1O From 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
[Doors open at noon. Program starts at 12:30 PM]
Advance tickets: $45 / at the door: $60 Family packs: three tickets for $125 Information and tickets: www.alba-valb.org or 212 674 5398 Paella & Drinks included!
Spanish Benevolent Society 239 West 14th Street, 2nd FL. New York, NY 10011