Vol. XXXIV, No.2
PUBLISHED BY THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE ARCHIVES
Proactiva’s Òscar Camps: “Angel of the Sea”
Jay Allen on Spanish Refugees (p. 12) Hemingway in Madrid (p. 17) The U.S. and World Fascism (p. 7)
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 email@example.com 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 (193639). 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
New York Celebration
Angels of the Sea
America and World Fascism
A Teacher Responds
New York Institute
Hostages of Appeasemen
Hemingway in Madrid
Michigan and the SCW
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Dear Friends and Comrades: Every day we are inspired by the millions in this country and around the world who engage in acts of resistance against racists and oppressors. Like many of you, we worried about the recent elections in France and the Netherlands and were relatively relieved by the outcome. We were also thrilled to see the New York Times publish an op-ed citing Henry A. Wallace’s 1944 “The Danger of American Fascism.” Then-Vice President Wallace warned against right-wing leaders who pursue political power by poisoning “the channels of public information” in order to “use the news to deceive the public” to protect their own wealth and privilege. Seventy-three years later, Wallace’s words continue to resonate. Fittingly, his article is one of several documents we shared with teachers who attended our recent institutes in Massachusetts and New York. We will continue to hold conversations on the nature and dangers of fascism with more educators at our forthcoming institutes in Ohio, Wisconsin, and New York this fall. ALBA proudly identifies with the international movement that fights for social justice and human rights. On April 16, at our annual event, we conferred the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism on Proactiva Open Arms, the group of brave internationalists and human-rights activists who play a central role in rescuing thousands of refugees who attempt to cross the Mediterranean to flee war and oppression. Our own educational activities are also gaining international recognition. In May, The Guardian highlighted our teachers’ institutes. Titled “Fighting Fascism: Americans in the Spanish Civil War Have a Lesson for Today,” the article described how ALBA has taken the stories of the Lincoln volunteers “along with propaganda posters, letters and other document to high schools around the US, to help teachers confront the resurgence of ‘alternative facts’ and extreme politics in American life.” None of this would be possible without your support. As we confront the challenges ahead, ALBA will remain steadfast in its work to ensure that the experiences of the men and women of the Lincoln Brigade continue to resonate and inspire current and future generations of activists. We know where we stand. In the words of the Italian antifascist Pietro Calamandrei, for us it will always be “now and forever Resistance.” Salud,
Fraser Ottanelli Chair of the Board of Governors
Marina Garde Executive Director
ALBA’S 81ST ANNUAL CELEBRATION HONORS PROACTIVA OPEN ARMS’ REFUGEE RESCUE WORK On April 16, Òscar Camps, Gerard Canals, and Laura Lanuza of Proactiva Open Arms joined ALBA’s annual celebration at the Museum of the City of New York to receive the 2017 ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. Before the main award ceremony, they were interviewed by Emma Daly, communications director at Human Rights Watch. The main event featured an introduction by human rights activist Amy Rao, speeches by ALBA Chair Fraser Ottanelli, ALBA ED Marina Garde, and the Puffin Foundation’s vice-president Neal Rosenstein, as well as music by Brooklyn-based band Barbez. The event’s Honorary Committee included Vinie Burrows, Richard Serra, and Emilio Silva; the Host Committee included Peter N. Carroll, Burt Cohen, Dan Czitrom, Anthony Geist, Jeanne Houck, Jo Labanyi, Fraser Ottanelli, Ellyn Polshek, and Amy Rao.
Proactiva Open Arms
Neal and Gladys Rosenstein, Òscar Camps, Gerard Canals, Laura Lanuza, Marina Garde, Perry Rosenstein
Filmmaker Celia Novis
John Kailin with friend
ALBA crew June 2017 September 2016 THE VOLUNTEER 3
Photos by Jessie Addler and Alejandro Fernández Carrasco
ALBA’S 81ST ANNUAL CELEBRATION HONORS PROACTIVA OPEN ARMS’ REFUGEE RESCUE WORK
Emma Daly with Proactiva
Neal Rosenstein, Jay Halfon, Sabine Rosenstein
Proactiva Open Arms
Henry Yureck, Barry Cohen
Board member Kate Doyle
Board member Ellyn Polshek
Chair of the board, Fraser Ottanelli
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Human Rights Column
Angels of the Sea By Amy Rao
Amy Rao, a member of the international Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch, gave the introductory address at the presentation of the seventh ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism to Òscar Camps and Gerard Canals, the founders of Proactiva Open Arms, at the award ceremony held at the Museum of the City of New York on April 16. Here she offers an eyewitness account of how she met these remarkable volunteer lifeguards in action as they struggle to rescue huge numbers of refugees from drowning.
Òscar Camps met Òscar, Gerard, of the international Board of Directors
and the Proactiva Open Arms team in October 2015. The head of the emergencies division at Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouchaert, was covering the crisis as it was playing out: dozens of boats filled with refugees arriving on the shores of Lesbos, Greece, around the clock. I had been following Peter’s Twitter and Facebook posts from Greece and very early one morning an email came from Peter asking for help. There was a need to quickly get some funding to “the only organization on the ground saving lives,” a small group of lifeguards from Barcelona, Spain, Proactiva Open Arms. Their immediate need was for jet skis with sleds. The lifeguards had come weeks
before, equipped only with wetsuits and fins—but with water skills worthy of Olympians. I arrived on Lesbos October 26, and as I drove along the sandy beach road to reach the lifeguards in the small coastal village where they were based, I was followed by a truck pulling a trailer with two jet skis. Gerard had already asked Paris, the handy proprietor at the small inn where they were bunking to build ramps for the jet skis so that they could be launched directly from where the lifeguards were housed. Within two days the ramps were built and placed into the water from the rocky beach directly in front of the inn. June 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 5
Proactiva Open Arms in action before the coast of Lesbos, Greece. Photo courtesy of POA.
I can remember all of us admiring how quickly it was done. That morning, October 28, started as all the days before it and since the lifeguards had arrived. They guided boats in all morning, full of families. They unloaded the babies and toddlers first and worked their way through the disabled, those missing limbs from the bombings in their countries, to the women and lastly to the men. They wrapped all in blankets and administered first aid as needed. It was non-stop and to the unsuspecting volunteer, the situation would appear chaotic and without end. But the Proactiva team was always focused, calming, with great purpose and grounded in what needed to be done moment by moment to save lives. At 3 p.m. that day, we sat down for a late lunch at the taverna on the ground floor of the inn. There were six lifeguards from Proactiva on the island that week. I sat with four of them for lunch and two remained out on the beach road that circled the island, keeping watch for boats in distress. Just as our food began to arrive, Fio, the only female lifeguard that week, picked up her phone to hear one of her colleagues say, “bodies in the water.” He gave the location from a road along a cliff. We jumped in two cars and sped a couple of kilometers up the road where we saw a Proactiva vehicle and the lifeguards looking out with binoculars. Something had gone very wrong. Looking out toward Turkey, one kilometer from the Greek shore, I could see hundreds of orange life preservers sprinkled like confetti bobbing up and down on the whitecaps. It was an instant shock to the system. From unloading boats with the lifeguards for the past couple of days, I knew that a good amount of those lifejackets were on small children, and that babies usually had no life-preserving device. In what seemed like an instant I heard the screeching of tires peeling out, and off went all six lifeguards. Within 10 minutes, I could see the jet skis racing to the scene. A large wooden fishing boat with more than 300 Syrian refugees aboard had collapsed and sunk off the coast of Lesbos. The tragedy happened at about 3:30 in the afternoon, and it remains the deadliest day on the Aegean since 2015. On that day in very cold weather, Gerard and Òscar and Niko and Dani all went out on the two jet skis in rough seas and heavy wind, and remained out there for nearly five hours, well into a chilly dark night. They pulled 243 survivors out of the water. I can’t bear to share the number of babies and children they worked tirelessly to save, but who are now painfully counted among those that perished. When the four lifeguards came back that night at nearly 9 p.m., they were chilled to the bone, their faces red. No words 6 THE VOLUNTEER June 2017
could come from their mouths. What they had witnessed was a warzone on water the likes of which they hope to never experience again. It was a sadness that permeated the entire island and a sadness without measure for the parents who survived. I learned the next day that when they came back that night they went straight to their rooms and put the shower heads into the neck of their wetsuits to try to warm their bodies. The next night I sat down with Gerard as he shared what had been his experience out in the water. Who did they go to first, with victims floating everywhere and countless children and babies? How did they do it? How did they manage to work in such cold conditions for so long? Each response was painfully difficult, but critical if they were to alter the future. But on that day began a new readiness—the lifeguards would get more equipment, faster rescue boats, better ropes and ladders to arm the Greek coast guard vessels, more communication equipment and commitments from Frontex [the European Union’s border agency] and the coastguard to coordinate rescues. And all the rescue workers were to get trained on open water rescue and first aid. Because out on the sea that day, the only people equipped to pull people from the water were the Proactiva lifeguards. Although other fishing boats and coast guard boats had come out to help, no one on those boats knew CPR or first aid. No one on those boats was able to actually get into the water and help victims that couldn’t swim to a boat or pull themselves aboard. All 243 survivors were pulled out of the water by four lifeguards who know what is required to do successful rescues in open water. What happened on October 28 would never again be repeated if Proactiva could get the essential resources they so desperately need to respond most effectively. Proactiva posted a single online message following the October 28 tragedy: “There are no words as our hearts are broken. We think only of those whose feet will never touch the dream that is Europe.” You call them lifeguards; I call them the angels of the sea. It is an honor to pay tribute to these heroes. Amy Rao is the founder and CEO of Integrated Archive Systems (IAS) in Palo Alto, California. She is a member of the board of the Fund for Global Human Rights, the International Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch, and the board of the Schmidt Family Foundation.
America and World Fascism ALBA Takes Its Teaching in a New Direction By Sebastiaan Faber
ALBA has expanded the scope of its teaching institutes, moving from the Spanish Civil War to a broader and more ambitious focus on the role of the United States in the world, as well as the moral, political, and judicial aspects of the struggle for human rights. The time is right: â€œFascismâ€? was among the most looked up words in the dictionary last year.
Springfield institute. Photo R. Cairn
Recent political developments have moved large numbers of citizens to again appreciate the relevance of political organizing, judicial independence, and an independent media.
hat happens if we look at American history and U.S. foreign policy not as a struggle between isolationism and internationalism but through the lens of fascism and anti-fascism? How can we responsibly speak about fascism in the present? How do we help middle and high school students appreciate the past in all its complexity through the concept of historical empathy? How do we help them understand what fascism might look like today?
These were the questions that Peter Carroll and I spent two intense days considering together with some 30 History and Spanish teachers from Massachusetts public schools. With the invaluable help of master teacher Kelley Brown and Rich Cairn from the Collaborative for Educational Services, we considered a broad set of primary source documents ranging from letters of Lincoln veterans to speeches by F. D. Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, and Martin Luther King.
In consultation with Cairn and Brown, ALBA has expanded the scope of its teaching institutes, moving from the Spanish Civil War to a broader and more ambitious focus on the role of the United States in the world, as well as the moral, political, and judicial aspects of the struggle for human rights. The time is right for such a reorientation. Recent political developments have moved large numbers of citizens to again appreciate the relevance of political organizing, judicial indepenJune 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 7
Springfield institute. Photos R. Cairn
An essay by Henry Wallace showed how the “premature” anti-fascism of the Lincoln volunteers had become mainstream by 1944. dence, and an independent media. There is also a new thirst for historical knowledge to understand the present. “Fascism” was among the most looked up words in the dictionary last year. At the same time, the fact that the White House is occupied by a president who flouts the fundamental values of intellectual inquiry and integrity on a daily basis, poses new challenges for school teachers everywhere. Five central questions guided the workshop: What is fascism? Who are its victims? What does it mean to resist fascism, and how were its leaders judged in the wake of the Second World War? What can we say about the presence of fascism in the postwar period? And, finally, how does the study of fascism in the past inform how we understand the present? In addition, master teacher Kelley Brown guided the participating teachers through various exercises in historical empathy—a concept meant to help high school students avoid the temptation of judging the past as critically separate from the present. Rich Cairn led an excursion through the hundreds of hate groups active in the United States today, as mapped by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Grounding the workshop was an anthology of compelling primary sources. A letter by Lincoln vets Hy Katz and Canute Frankson underscored the fact that many of those who volunteered to fight in Spain did so because they felt fascism constituted a global threat. A fireside chat by President Roosevelt and a speech by Charles Lindbergh, both from September 11, 1941, made clear that fascism had important American supporters. An essay by Henry Wallace on the “Dangers of American Fascism” showed how the “premature” anti-fascism of the Lincoln volunteers had become mainstream by 1944.
The rise of fascism created a new awareness of the need to assist civilian victims, including political refugees. This is clear from compelling reportage from 1939 by Chicago journalist Jay Allen on the Spanish Republicans held in French refugee camps (see page #12 for Allen’s piece). Two excerpts from testimonies delivered at the Nuremberg trials sparked discussion
about the complications of judging political crimes, and the way in which concepts like genocide and crimes against humanity helped reshape international law. A speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., read alongside a speech by the historian (and Lincoln vet) Robert Colodny, helped bring home the connection between the
1930s and the Vietnam War. We discussed the effect of surveillance and political persecution in the United States during the Cold War through Crawford Morgan’s testimony before the Subversive Activities Control Board and a poem by Ray Durem dedicated to the FBI agent who tracked his every step for years. A recent report about U.S. volunteers fighting ISIS in Syria, finally, served to prompt a discussion about the value and limitations of historical analogies. The teachers spent the last part of the second day working on a lesson plan design incorporating these primary sources. “Thoughtful, relevant, practical, and inspiring,” wrote a teacher in charge of 10th and 11th-grade U.S. and Global History in his evaluation, adding: “The workshop was highly applicable for my classroom practice as well as inspiring politically.” “The depth of the content was immensely helpful in educating me on this event and its ties to other events,” a 10th-grade U.S. history teacher wrote; “So amazing the knowledge the instructors shared with us.” “I already have plans to use this in a lesson for this year!” a 9th-grade Western Civics teacher said. “This was the best professional development workshop I can remember (and I have taught for over 20 years).” This two-day institute was made possible by generous support from the Puffin Foundation, the University of Massachusetts, and the Collaborative for Educational Services. Sebastiaan Faber, former chair of ALBA’s board, teaches at Oberlin College.
Springfield institute. Photo S. Faber 8 THE VOLUNTEER June 2017
The Massachusetts Institute: A Teacher Responds Karen Pleasant, History Department Chair at Stoneleigh Burnham School in Greenfield, Massachusetts, participated in ALBA’s two-day institute this spring. A 17-year veteran in the classroom, she teaches U.S. History and several history classes in the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
am quite embarrassed to say this, but before this workshop I really did not know anything about the Spanish Civil War, beyond seeing the painting of Guernica by Pablo Picasso and visiting the Valley of the Fallen when I was a student in college studying in Madrid. I had not heard of the Lincoln Brigade. I very much enjoyed the historical content of the workshop: the Spanish Civil War in general—but particularly from the anti-fascist point of view. It was interesting to look at a civil war in Europe from the perspective of American participants. What worked well for my learning style was to have the workshop
time divided into lecture, practical teaching exercises, reading time of various source materials, and the hands-on creation of a lesson plan. The source material that we were given was excellent, and so were the digital resources. I was intrigued by the notion of having my students contribute to the ALBA Database, though I am not quite sure how to go about this type of research with a class of high school students. I am interested in the event of July 6, 1935, which is covered in the film The Good Fight, when a group of American protesters tore the Nazi flag off the German ship the SS Bremen while it was docked in New York City. I am hoping to develop a lesson that revolves around “point of view.” Students would have multiple sources to work with, from multiple viewpoints, to answer the question: “What happened on this day?” I hope that by the end of the lesson, students would realize that answering how and why things happen directly relates to the perspective of who is telling the story and where it is being reported. I have time to teach one more unit in my IB History Standard-Level class and I have decided to teach the Spanish Civil War. I have the option to teach this within the broader world history topic: Causes and Effects of 20th-Century Wars. Before this workshop, I was not going to teach the Spanish Civil War, but I am now very enthusiastic to devote four weeks to the study of this conflict. There seems to be a wealth of great resources at the ALBA website, and I will definitely use some of the lesson plans in my new unit.
Open Call - Human Rights Documentaries Deadline: July 10, 2017
Open call for documentary filmmakers worldwide with productions made in 2016 and 2017, addressing any issue related to human rights. Deadline for submissions: July 10 Notification of selection: July 31 Festival: September 22-34, DCTV New York Jury: Spanish investigative documentary filmmaker Montserrat Armengou [Franco’s Forgotten Children, The Institutions of Fear]; Emmy-winning filmmaker Laurens Grant [Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution]; and Director Emeritus of the New York Film Festival Richard Peña. More information at www.alba-valb.org Impugning Impunity: ALBA’s Human Rights Documentary Film Festival is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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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 Kate Doyle Anthony L. Geist Jo Labanyi
John Brickman Christopher Brooks Robert Coale Burton Cohen Angela Giral Peter Glazer Jeanne Houck Tim Johnson Peter Miller Josephine Nelson-Yurek Julia Newman Nancy Wallach Nancy Yanofsky
Direct your assets to the people and causes you care about most
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
For more information please contact ALBA’s executive director Marina Garde 212-674-5398 firstname.lastname@example.org
In loving memory of our friend and colleague Xochitl Gil-Higuchi (1972 - 2017)
¡Vuela alto, mariposa! 10 THE VOLUNTEER June 2017
Back in School: The New York Institute By Peter N. Carroll
“ALBA will be incorporated to the Humanities curriculum of the Sección Internacional Española (SIE) at United Nations International School (Grade 10) […] Please, spread your work to Spain!!! Thank you for your generosity and for keeping all of this alive. ¡Salud y República!” –NYC High School Teacher of Humanities in Spanish, 12 years teaching experience
“This training has influenced directly a significant amount of what I do in an 11-12th grade European History elective. The materials enable me to link American and European history, allows the students to engage in authentic research with primary sources, and introduces students to normal people influencing the course of history. I cannot praise this program as much as it deserves.” –NYC High School Teacher of History, 41 years teaching experience “I really appreciate that the materials provided traced fascism and anti-fascism from the 20s and 30s all the way to today, touching on the many fascinating case studies along the way.”
–NYC High School Teacher of Spanish Language and Culture, 6 years experience
eflecting a growing interest among Americans about the history of fascism and anti-fascism, and resulting struggles for the rights of citizens and civilians in wartime, ALBA launched a three-day symposium for high school teachers of New York City to explore these themes using primary sources that remain accessible and challenging for their students. With the welcome mat out, over 30 teachers of social studies, Spanish language, and literary arts enrolled in a series of seminars spread over two weekends in May, led by Professor James Fernández of New York University, Peter N. Carroll, Juan Salas, and ALBA Board Chair Fraser Ottanelli. This program was supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Among the major topics were two questions: Who were the first Americans to recognize fascism as a threat? Why did it take so long for Americans to form a consensus about this threat? In answering these questions, ALBA introduced teachers to key documents including President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s so-called “Quarantine speech” of 1937; the response by major newspaper editorials; an essay by radio priest, Father Charles Coughlin; letters from U.S. volunteers in the Lincoln Brigade; and radio broadcasts by FDR and the America First spokesman Charles Lindbergh. Continuing the story through World War II and its aftermath, the Teaching Institute addressed the Nuremberg
Tribunals, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the postwar struggles for civil rights, resistance to McCarthyism, and the anti-war movement of the 1960s, including historian Robert Colodny’s (a Lincoln vet) pamphlet Spain and Vietnam, first published by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Underlying all these issues is the current political climate that the teachers said affects how they and their students view the world. Questions involving the rights of refugees, for example, exhibit common themes whether the uprooted peoples are Spaniards in 1939, Jews in Europe during World War II and the Holocaust, or victims of bombings in the Middle East today. By placing the Spanish Civil War in the context of such broad themes, ALBA’s seminars emphasize the importance of educating students and citizens everywhere about basic human rights. Most satisfying are the responses of ALBA’s alumni, the teachers who are eager to study these subjects—indeed, many of our teachers this year had attended earlier institutes—and to bring these lessons into their own classrooms in the boroughs of New York. Special thanks to the Puffin Foundation, the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center and the Tamiment Library
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Hostages of Appeasement By Jay Allen
Do refugees have rights? If so, who is responsible to protect them? These contemporary questions are not new. Indeed, they were raised eloquently by the American journalist Jay Allen in November 1939 in Survey Graphic, a monthly magazine edited by Paul Kellogg, illustrated with images by Ione Robinson (1910-1989), an American photographer and artist. Allen (1900-1972) had reported the atrocities committed by Francoâ€™s armies during the Spanish Civil War for the Chicago Tribune. He well understood the perils facing Spanish refugees who had fled to France. He himself would be imprisoned by Hitlerâ€™s German officials after the fall of France in 1940. We can ask today, as he did then: What can Americans do?
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On French soil are close to 300,000 refugees, the flower and sap of the Republic and the sole hope of the millions still in Spain under General Francoâ€™s ruthless improvisations.
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A page from the November 1939 Survey Graphic below.
he experiment which opened to such bright hopes in the spring of 1931 has been destroyed . . . chiefly by the fact that it was born into a fiercely illiberal world which betrayed it at every step.” —New York Herald Tribune, February 7, 1939. Resurrection of the Spanish Republic is not on the war program of the Allies. Mr. Chamberlain has expressed his regrets to Czechoslovakia and to Poland and promised them that they will rise again. The way things are shaping up even this is a large order. But there was also Spain. It may well be that the redemption of Czechoslovakia and of Poland will call for a military triumph on a grand scale over the conquerors who now hold them. It is not so with Spain. For the Spanish Republic lies physically, as well as in a moral sense, in the hands of those who betrayed it. It can be saved by humanitarian endeavor, not by battle. For on French soil are close to 300,000 refugees, the flower and sap of the Republic and the sole hope of the millions still in Spain under General Franco’s ruthless improvisations. Save them and the Spanish Republic is saved for the future, no matter what the political exigencies that maintain the generalissimo precariously in power for a time. It is a commonplace to say that during centuries there were two Spains in a state of permanent civil war, but for being a commonplace it is no less true. The dwindling minority of one of those Spains set upon the other and sought, with help from the most surprising sources, to annihilate it once and for all—to do with machine gun and bomb and foreign complicity what its predecessors with fire and stake had so signally failed to do long ago. In concentration camps, in labor battalions in France, in exile in the New World are the victims—the other Spain that had proved itself so generous in the brief years of the Republic. They are more than a cross-section of the Republic; they are its core. Spain was not a large country for all her imperial heritage; and among her 23 millions, there were few who were, as Spaniards say, “prepared.” In the camps of France there are 2,063 school teachers; the Spanish Monarchy could have done wonders with that many school teachers had it approved of education. There are 2,440 printers—printers always seem to carry the spirit of 1789 in old societies. There are 2,809 electricians, 5,922 wood-
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workers, 17,000 builders and masons, 10,272 mechanics and 45,918 peasants—the enlightened workers who were the backbone of the second and—oh so moderate—Spanish Republic, who thought of progress not in terms of revolution but in terms of the development of their own capacities. And there are dentists, pharmacists, nurses, opticians, architects, engineers, silk workers, topographers, agronomists, horticulturists, philologists, museum directors, aviation mechanics, viticulturists, distillers, tailors, hatmakers, musicians, lockmakers, blacksmiths, breeders of Arabian horses, psychiatrists, bullfight surgeons and, in modest proportions, army and navy officers. These were the riches and the hope of a people whom Havelock Ellis found to be the firmest-fibered race of all. This was the capital with which they sought, pathetically, to establish a pleasant 19th century republic in the 30s of this terrible century. In other countries such talents are taken for granted and sometimes ignored; in Spain “preparation” for even the humblest task was the promise of a rebirth of a people that was poor in everything but genius. They were the Spain that wanted only to live and let live. But when this was not allowed them they fought, as no people have fought in our time. And because they fought against fascism they were called “Reds.” Strange that in the debris of the Republic, the debris that is also its hope, there should turn out to be only some eight percent of communists and they, for the most part, men who had accepted a discipline that called for the maintenance of the political and social status quo. Beaten, the Spanish Loyalist refugees came out of the war more of a nation than ever in their history. They were the first victims of appeasement and now, with appeasement presumably dead, they are still its victims and, for the first time, their very survival is in doubt. France, at war, finds them an even greater problem. The children are being sent back to Spain when Franco authorities, claiming the parents to be there, ask for them. And remember that Franco’s punitive “Law of Political Responsibilities” applies to everyone down to the age of 14. All adults are under fearful pressure to go back. Franco has promised immunity from his “purification” processes if they are not guilty of what he calls “crime.” The sincerity of such an amnesty would have to
Spanish refugees at Le Barcarès, 1939. Photo Ione Robinson.
be checked on the spot by an international commission which would see to it that Franco’s definition of crime would not endanger the refugees. Since being a freemason or a democrat or a socialist is defined as crime in the statutes of Nationalist Spain, an amnesty might prove to be a very frail guarantee indeed. Of the 82,000 refugee militiamen, France has taken only 16,000 into industry and agriculture; 24,000 are in labor battalions; and 42,000 are still in concentration camps, where they have been for over eight months. One hundred thousand old men, women and children are also in camps. These are official French figures. The point is not so much that these heroes of the first and, to date, only real war against fascism in Europe have sunk deeper into misery. It is that their hopes have been blighted. Their own carefully devised plans to transplant their republic to the New World, there to keep it alive until the day when it should live again at home, have been cut short. Yesterday victims of appeasement, today they are hostages of appeasement; held thus to please General Franco who, if he so deigns, can one day become the glorious ally of the embattled democracies. There is little hope of a change in the French attitude. Help must come from some other countries which are not yet so desperately engaged in the struggle for democracy as to have to make such strategic capitulations in its name.
The Spain That Was
From below the Pyrenees comes the echo of the firing squads cleaning up the unfinished business encouraged by the Nonintervention Committee, and the day may well come, and soon, when General Franco will ask a price for joining in the crusade to save democracy. All this is a far cry from the epic days of the defense of Madrid in 1936. The Spanish Republicans were very proud then. They were sure, then, that they were fending off the menace for all of Europe, and often in those early days you saw Spain pictured as a bull standing bloody but defiant, with a Hitler caught on one horn and a Mussolini on the other. That was in the days before the thing called Non-intervention was shown up to be the beginnings of the formula for surrender that in its later, more brutal, aspects came to be called Appeasement. There were still many illusions in Spain then. They thought that the western world would come to under-
stand. They knew that they hadn’t invented Spanish anarchism and Spanish Marxism; they were trying to leave the sick society that fostered them. They thought that the societies born of the French Revolution and the 19th century would remember that democracy and simple freedom had been thought worth fighting for long before it had reached its higher and fancier capitalist developments. And that once upon a time the defense of democracy by embattled farmers and other rabble was not deplored. When the earlier illusions had gone and they saw not only Britain and France but the United States collaborating in a conspiracy to deny them arms in the name of Non-Intervention and Neutrality, while the generalissimo’s friends suffered from no such inhibitions, they held on to the idea that the true democrats of those three countries would understand that the conspiracy was not against Spain alone but all free men everywhere. They may have dreamed, as was their right, of the day when appeasement would blow up in the faces of its authors. But when Munich came they knew it was the end for them. Nevertheless they fought on, in last ditches, having known the bombers, they knew that there was worse to fear. And some of them, the very wise, knew that with Munich the Soviet Union, which had helped from afar to hold the fort, was lost to a dream called collective security, or with Munich it was clear to everyone— who wasn’t led by a line—that the only collective action since sanctions were abandoned was collective security in reverse. But when they went under they got some fine obituaries in the papers. On February 7, 1939, when Catalonia was falling, the New York Herald Tribune carried a moving editorial called “The Death of an Anachronism”: All day Sunday and yesterday the wreck of the Spanish Republic was streaming northward through the passes of the Pyrenees the weary crowds of peasants and workpeople, the escaping officials, the hungry women, the lost and orphaned children, and the broken fragments of a valiant army in one vast tide of disorganization and defeat. One thinks of the terrible retreat of the Greek armies through Anatolia in 1922; one thinks of the Belgian armies pouring down the roads from Liege in 1914; one thinks of the wreck of the Grande Armée in the long twilight at Waterloo or of the great defeats and routs of history and one finds that none is quite a parallel for this mass fear and flight, this simultaneous dissolution of an army, a government, a people and an idea under the merciless blows of modern warfare . . . June 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 15
Spanish refugees at Le Barcarès, 1939. Photo Ione Robinson.
the republic is dead. The experiment which opened to such bright hopes in the spring of 1931 has been destroyed partly by its own ineptitudes and excesses, partly by the blind recalcitrance of the vested interests which it challenged, partly by the brute intervention of two alien dictators, but chiefly by the fact that it was born into a fiercely illiberal world which betrayed it at every step. The responsibility had been still more clearly underlined by President Roosevelt who, a few weeks before in his message to Congress, admitted that our “neutrality” had favored the aggressor. “During those eight years from 1931,” he said, “many of our people clung to the hope that the innate decency of mankind would protect the unprepared who showed their innate trust in mankind. Today we are all wiser and sadder.” […] The obituaries were premature. When the Republican Army came out of Catalonia it marched in formation, flags flying, and its chief, Negrín, a biologist and physician who had never asked more than to be left alone, was the last to cross. They were proud. True they had yielded to the Condor Legion and other phantom invaders whom the Non-Interventionists had never been able to detect. (The Condor Legion has since shown its substance in Poland.) They were proud because they knew that in 33 months of war their nation had been reborn, old Spain ground to bits, their return made inevitable.
What Americans Can Do
In France they were herded into concentration camps, quarantined for having fought too long and too well for democracy. Darker days were to come, as appeasement tightened. The Spanish Republic’s gold that might have kept them sheltered and fed was sent back to Franco. The generalissimo became a favorite with nice people. The United States came forward with a loan of $13,500,000 for the Spanish dictator and the U.S. State Department admits no knowledge of executions. When Hitler entered Prague the Spanish Republicans felt certain that now would be an end to appeasement and they prepared to put the army of 150,000 that had come out of Spain at the service of France. Appeasement, gold, loans all had failed to break the Axis. Then Stalin turned around and broke it and, breaking it, he left the British and French to fight Hitler and continue to appease Mussolini and Franco. Not in all their nightmares had the Spanish Republicans dreamed that the war bred by appeasement would find them still quarantined, disqualified to fight for the cause they had defended alone for so long, and barred from the hopes of victory, if victory there could be. They were never abandoned altogether. In England they found 16 THE VOLUNTEER June 2017
such champions as the Duchess of Atholl, General Molesworth, the Dean of Canterbury, in Sweden Senator Branting, in France Cardinal Verdier who joined Academicians and others to help the child refugees. In this country, for some reason, efforts by certain groups to label all Spanish refugee relief activity as something bordering on subversion have been for a time more successful than elsewhere. This factor, together with the shift of interest and the uncertainties of the outbreak of the war, resulted in a ruinous falling off of contributions. In England and France the war has brought down the contributions almost to zero. No funds can be sent from England for such purposes, and in France general mobilization has paralyzed most of the relief work. The burden now rests largely on us. All of the relief organizations are determined to go on. The Spanish Refugee Relief Campaign, of which Secretary [of the Interior Department of the US, Harold] Ickes is honorary chairman, has asked the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) to supervise the distribution of its funds as an ultimate guarantee of its non-political character. The Spanish Confederated Societies have done likewise.[…] What can be done in this country? We can, before loaning more money to General Franco, suggest that he might prepare himself to take the veil of democracy by granting an amnesty to the vanquished and in the meantime cease the bloodlettings. We can arrange to cooperate as a government with the Quakers and other relief organizations that are now ready to help settle Spanish refugees in the New World. […] Why should we do this? Debt of conscience. And self-interest too. The democratic Spain, sole inspiration of 60 million Spanish speaking Americans at our borders cannot be allowed to die. Suppose that in the 16th century the Spanish Armada had succeeded in its enterprise to bring fire to England. Then there would have been exiles or martyrs with such names as Spenser, Marlowe, Bacon, Dekker, Jonson, Greene. A playwright from Stratford might have been among them. And had they been abandoned what would have been the loss to a liberal AngloSaxon civilization as yet unborn! We know what would be the loss to the Spanish-speaking world today if the Spain that was never appeased is abandoned. It will die if abandoned. This is a problem for us. Our share in Non-Intervention helped make them exiles. Now we have a chance, without going to war, to retrieve the error, to consolidate what still remains. Failure to do so and its consequences in Latin America would be another error that we may never have a chance to retrieve. It is up to us. The British and French have their hands tied. We have not, as yet.
Hemingway in the Martyred City, April 1937 By Martin Minchom
In April 1937, Ernest Hemingway filed a series of dispatches from Madrid on the atrocious Nationalist bombing campaigns. Curiously, he failed to mention the attack on Guernica. Ernest Hemingway with Ilya Ehrenburg and Gustav Regler during the Spanish Civil War, not dated, circa 1937. Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Public Domain.
lthough from December 1936 onwards Madrid received a continuous flow of illustrious foreign visitors, the historical context of the war in the Spanish capital in April 1937 has remained strangely out of focus. Ernest Hemingway arrived in Madrid as the highly compensated correspondent of the newspaper syndicate, the North American Newspaper
Alliance (NANA). In the second week of April, he and several friends set themselves up in what he called the “Old Homestead,” a half ruined building among the formerly elegant houses on Madrid’s western plateau, with a panoramic view of combat taking place in the open countryside of the Casa de Campo. The filmmaker Joris Ivens was also in the group, and later incorporated
footage of battle scenes into his documentary The Spanish Earth, with which Hemingway was closely involved. In fact, these scenes were part of a full-scale Republican military offensive intended to wrest Garabitas Hill and other strategic high ground in the Casa de Campo from Francoist control. On April 30, Hemingway linked the fighting in central Spain to the Basque June 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 17
Nocturnal bombing at the Plaza Antón Martín, Madrid. Winter 1936. (Photo Juan Miguel Pando Barrero. Museo Reina Sofïa, Madrid.)
campaign: “Madrid can only help [Basque resistance to the Nationalists] by attacking on the central front, as they did in Casa de Campo three weeks ago, to draw off troops from the north” (NANA, p. 37). This was indeed what the Republic sought to do through a series of military initiatives, like the Segovia Offensive described in For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the Battle of Brunete in July 1937. The battle at the Casa de Campo was the only one to take place in the capital between the great Battle of Madrid in November 1936 and the end of the war. Still, the Republican offensive fizzled rapidly, leaving barely any trace in the historiography of the war. Similarly, the intense bombardments of Madrid in the same month also “vanished” from history. These “disappearances” raise significant questions about the reporting and interpretation of the war. In one sense, of course, the shelling of Madrid is all too familiar thanks to some of its surprising collateral effects, such as its imagined aphrodisiac impact on Hemingway and Gellhorn. But while the shells landing in the center of Madrid persistently beat time in our “soundtrack” to the Spanish Civil War, there is a contradiction in the particularity of the April attacks, which belonged to a short lived and highly aggressive Francoist campaign resulting in hundreds of victims. For news outlets operating for an international mass market, the problem with an artillery campaign was that it was inherently
18 THE VOLUNTEER June 2017
Madrid bombed. (Archivo Rojo, Spanish Ministry of Culture.)
repetitive and predictable, lacking the drama and existential terror of an aerial bombardment. Still, in the texts that Hemingway sent from Madrid in April 1937, the bombing of civilians often took center stage. He wrote graphically of the shells hitting Madrid, which killed “an old woman returning home from market, dropping her in a huddled, black heap of clothing, with one leg suddenly detached whirling against the wall of an adjoining house. They killed three people in another square who lay like so many bundles of torn clothing in the dust and rubble…” (NANA, p. 27). In reports sent on April 18 or 19 and April 20, Hemingway commented on the stoicism of Madrid’s population once the immediate danger had ended and puzzled over the Francoist motivation for terrorizing the city. He concluded his text with an allusion to the “martyrdom of Madrid” (NANA, p. 36). The impact of the bombardments on the journalists congregated in Madrid was clear from a cluster of reports in the international press, April 18-20. This was precisely the moment when Pablo Picasso, then living in Paris, scrawled a hammer and sickle over the front page of Paris-Soir, a newspaper that chose to highlight bland official observations on non-intervention instead of the bombing of Madrid. (See the March 2011 issue of The Volunteer.) Indeed, Hemingway was not the only person to invoke the “martyrdom” of Madrid. The French newspaper
L’Œuvre, too, employed a similar expression just a day before Hemingway, headlining its report “Madrid, Martyred City.” The first to coin this trope was the French journalist Louis Delaprée in his incandescent accounts of the aerial bombardments of Madrid in November 1936. From January 1937, his reports came out in five languages (including English) in a widely distributed pamphlet called The Martyrdom of Madrid. Rather than simply representing a limited albeit highly destructive shelling campaign, the new attacks tapped into the mystique of “martyred” Madrid, the city that had become synonymous with the bombing of civilians—before, that is, Guernica became the new point of reference. In late April, Hemingway made a trip to the Guadarrama Mountains northwest of Madrid (the terrain that would partly inspire him when writing For Whom the Bell Tolls), returning to the city on the 29th. In the report sent the day after (April 30), Hemingway returned to the topic of bombardments. For nearly three weeks, the shelling of Madrid had been intermittently a key news item, along with the military course of the Basque campaign. On April 28 and 29 the shelling of Madrid was still news, but thanks especially to the publication on April 28 of George L. Steer’s report—in both The Times and the New York Times—on the Guernica bombing of April 26, the international press began to highlight the attack on the Basque town. Simultaneously, the
Ernest Hemingway with other American visitors to 15th International Brigade, Dec. 1937. (Tamiment Library, NYU, 15th IB Photo Collection, Photo #11_1352)
shelling of Madrid came to an unannounced end. Hemingway noted that April 30 had been a quiet day, imagining that this was simply a lull. But Madrid’s martyrdom had ended. Perhaps the Francoists feared a potential propaganda disaster if they had to defend or lie about the bombing of civilians in both Madrid and Guernica at the same time. Strangely, however, in Hemingway’s dispatch of April 30 he failed to mention the attack on Guernica (NANA, p. 37). Why? It is highly improbable that news of the attack and emerging controversy had not reached him by that date. William Braasch Watson suggests that Hemingway preferred to comment on information that he had collected himself. We might add that a Madrid-based journalist would not normally cover news from the Basque Country. But in this particular text, as well as describing the bombardments of Madrid, Hemingway provided an overview of the war that ranged from Franco’s Basque offensive to the strategic position of the Madrid front and conditions in the Guadarrama Mountains. It would have been one thing to omit news of the attack on Guernica in a report on an unrelated subject, but it was quite another that he did so in a piece that actually referred to the Basque campaign. The aerial destruction of Guernica has so overshadowed the attacks on Madrid that it may seem absurd to insist that there was a competing news story that month. Many secondary accounts of the war wrongly insist on the extent to which the attack on Guernica was unique and unprecedented, omitting the recent attacks on the civil populations of Madrid and Durango. And yet on April 28, the latest bombardment of Madrid figured prominently among the main headlines in the French newspaper Le Matin, while the news from Guernica was secondary. This bombardment was even briefly mentioned on the New York Times cover of the same day,
despite the fact that the newspaper had Steer’s sensational scoop on Guernica to showcase. But all this is only surprising in retrospect. Madrid had become the archetypal “heroic and martyred city” thanks to its successful resistance to
Franco and the bombardments that it had suffered; its name took on the same resonance that Sarajevo was to acquire in the 1990s. Hemingway was clearly conscious of this, making a small place for himself on the roll call of observers who had experienced and testified to the city’s destruction; hence his allusion to Madrid as the “martyred city,” and his insistence on the ferocity of the attacks on the city. The North American journalist Herbert L. Matthews, thinking
back to his arrival in Madrid in December 1936 when the Battle of Madrid had already ended, wrote that the city had become “the hub of the universe… the big story.” But Hemingway was defending the primacy of Madrid—ever the stubborn competitor, Hemingway knew about Guernica but Madrid was his story—on the very last day it made sense. April’s bombing campaign against the city had finally concluded while the huge controversy over Guernica had only just begun. If we want to understand how people experienced and responded to the Spanish Civil War, the contemporary press helps us to understand what people considered significant more accurately than a conscientious reading of later secondary works. Perhaps in retrospect, the artillery attacks on Madrid in April 1937 were only stoking the embers of the fire that had enveloped the city a few months before; but at the time they renewed the martyrdom of Madrid, one of the great motifs of the antiFrancoist struggle. During the great May Day demonstration in Paris in 1937, a speech by Pascual Tomás of the Spanish UGT evoked both the women and children murdered by international fascism in “immortal Madrid,” as well as in Guernica. Thus, Madrid was not a distant memory on May 1, 1937, but a key part of a vigorous ongoing collective response to the bombing of civilians. Picasso reacted furiously to the attacks on Madrid just a week before the destruction of Guernica. But even a few days after that attack, Ernest Hemingway still clung to his big story by summoning up all the ghosts of the “martyred city.” Martin Minchom is the author of Spain’s Martyred Cities: From the Battle of Madrid to Picasso’s Guernica (Sussex Academic Press: Brighton, 2015). Hemingway in Spain, Dec. 1937. (Tamiment Library, NYU, 15th IB Photo Collection, Photo #11_1353) June 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 19
Michigan students rally for Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Photo University of Michigan.
Standing with Spain: Michigan Students and the Spanish Civil War By Juli Highfill
After the 1936 outbreak of the war in Spain, students at the University of Michigan rallied in support of the Republic. A symposium on March 23-25 featuring Peter Carroll and Robert Cohen commemorated this history of political commitment.
uring the Spanish Civil War, a vibrant student movement
at the University of Michigan rallied in support of the Republic. The Progressive Club, a local chapter of the American Student Union, led efforts to mobilize the student body and to connect with an international movement that hoped to halt fascism in Spain. The Student Senate passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to lift the embargo on selling arms to the Spanish Republic. Students and faculty formed a medical aid committee, held rallies, and raised funds to send an ambulance. Three students volunteered for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and fought in Spain—Ralph Neafus, Robert Cummins, and Elman Service—joining an estimated 100 volunteers from Michigan. After Neafus was captured by Nationalist forces in March 1938, 20 THE VOLUNTEER June 2017
students on campus mobilized to pressure the State Department to seek his release. Eventually, the government made inquiries through the Consul in Seville, but in the meantime, Neafus was executed along with the other International Brigaders captured at the same time. To commemorate this history of political commitment, students and faculty held a symposium on March 23-25: “Standing with Spain: Anti-Fascist Student Activism and the Spanish Civil War”— one of many events organized to mark the University’s bicentennial. In preparation, students conducted archival research in the newly digitized student newspaper, Michigan Daily, in the Bentley Historical Library, and in the ALBA database, as they explored this largely forgotten history. The symposium provided
Michigan students rally for Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Photo University of Michigan.
undergraduates with the rare opportunity to present their original research to a broader public. Their papers included a variety of topics: the “Fighting Finns,” on the Finnish-Americans from the Upper Peninsula who volunteered in the ALB; “An Unexpected Voice,” on Chi Chang, a ChineseAmerican mining engineer in Michigan who volunteered in Spain; “Elman Service on Campus,” on a student volunteer who returned as a professor; and “The Michigan Six,” on the persecution that still another Michigan volunteer, Saul Wellman, endured during the McCarthy era. The symposium also gave students the opportunity to engage in dialogue with two leading scholars: Peter Carroll, an expert on the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and Robert Cohen, an authority on student activism in the 1930s and ’60s. In their keynote addresses, both speakers presented new research on the contributions of Michiganders in supporting the Spanish Republic. Carroll, in his address—“Facing Fascism: Americans and the Spanish Civil War”—recounted the experiences of Ralph Neafus, Saul Wellman, and William Titus. Cohen discussed the radicalization of Arthur Miller at the University of Michigan in a talk titled, “Where
Have You Gone, Arthur Miller? America’s Forgotten Student Movement and the Spanish Civil War.” Other events included a recital and lecture by the pianist and human rights activist María Isabel Pérez Dobarro on the music of the second Spanish Republic; and a screening of Invisible Heroes: African-Americans in the Spanish Civil War, followed by a discussion with the co-director, Alfonso Domingo. On the final day, in a round-table discussion, representatives from Students for Justice and scholars with expertise in radical history examined the challenges facing activists today and the lessons to be drawn from movements in the past. As part of an ongoing course on student activism during the Spanish Civil War, future students will continue to research these largely forgotten events and to contribute to the historical record by submitting their work to the University archives. Juli Highfill is a professor of Spanish at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Call for Entries – George Watt Essay Competition Deadline: July 1, 2017
Students from anywhere in the world are invited to submit an essay or thesis chapter about any aspect of the Spanish Civil War, the global political or cultural struggles against fascism in 1920s and 1930s, or the lifetime histories and contributions of the Americans who fought in support of the Spanish Republic from 1936 to 1939. Deadline for submissions: July 1 Notification of selection: Sept. 1 The George Watt Competition is awarded in three categories: 1. Pre-Collegiate 2. Undergraduate 3. Graduate Three prizes of $250 will be awarded in each category. Winning essays are published on the ALBA website and an excerpt of the essay is published in The Volunteer. More information at www.alba-valb.org June 2017 THE VOLUNTEER 21
Julius Ruiz. Paracuellos: The Elimination of the ‘Fifth Column’ in Republican Madrid during the Spanish Civil War Brighton, UK; Chicago; Toronto: Sussex Academic Press, 2017. By David A. Messenger
ulius Ruiz has established himself as a scholar well versed in the repression and violence of Madrid during and after the Civil War, and especially the violence against civilians perpetrated by the Republican side. In this book, he tackles the case of Paracuellos, the massacre of some 2,500 political prisoners by Republicans in the small town of Paracuellos de Jarama in November and early December 1936. While no one disputes that this crime occurred, a considerable mythology has grown up around it. Many Republican supporters, then and now, have stressed the role of the Soviet NKVD in Madrid, but explain that they were operating at a distance from their supposed Republican allies. Francoist historians have also blamed the Soviets, but insist that Soviet control of the Republic and Spanish Republicans was the definitive part of the story. The argument of Soviet design is prominent in recent works such as Paul Preston’s The Spanish Holocaust. Of particular interest to many was the role of Santiago Carrillo, a Spanish Communist who at age 21 was in charge of security in Madrid and subsequently a crucial figure in Spain’s transition to democracy. In this new work, Ruiz seeks to separate fact from fiction and apply a non-ideological eye to the evidence. Ruiz’ first argument is that it is wrong to consider the events at Paracuellos as somehow exceptional in the history of Madrid in the fall of 1936. He argues instead that the violence of Paracuellos was not masterminded by the NKVD or the responsibility of anarchist and other “uncontrollables” in Madrid. The violence was part of a process of terror motivated by a fear that a Francoist “fifth column” was present and active in the city. Ruiz centers his attention on the Comité Provincial de Investigación Pública (CPIP) of the Popular Front government, created in August 1936 to improve public security well before the NKVD arrived. As Francoist forces 22 THE VOLUNTEER June 2017
came closer to Madrid, the fear of a fifth column increased and by early November, 10,000 political prisoners were held in Madrid jails, while another 8,798 were in foreign embassies seeking asylum. A series of sacas, or killings of prisoners, increased around Madrid that autumn. In this atmosphere, policing was approached with a revolutionary vigor, and complaints about arrests and violence from the British Embassy were dismissed out of hand. Ruiz argues that the murders that occurred at Paracuellos and vicinity were indeed unorganized and chaotic, but were not surprising given the increase in repression against suspected Francoists that marked the autumn of 1936. The height of violence, November 7-8, saw some 650 prisoners shot. The blame associated with the Soviets, Ruiz says, was a result of a propaganda campaign that appeared after the killings. This material argued that the Soviet intervention had brought with it the effective removal of a Francoist fifth column in Madrid. While the Soviets, like others, were genuinely concerned with the potential of fifth column activists to weaken the defense of Madrid, Ruiz effectively shows that the NKVD and other Soviet advisors had little influence over the CPIP in this period. He writes, “Spanish Communists did not need their Soviet comrades to tell them to act brutally against the internal enemy.” Ruiz focuses on Santiago Carrillo with this line of argument, emphasizing that he and others acted without formal approval from the national Directorate of Security to round up and move out prisoners for murder—orders that Ruiz characterizes as “from below.” The CPIP and its leaders like Santiago Carrillo pushed for radical action and November 1936 was the height of this; indeed, killings of prisoners declined greatly in the months that followed. Opposition to this violence emerged in the person of Melchor Rodríguez, appointed “Inspector General of the Prison Service” on November 9, 1936; he sought, unsuccessfully, to end the Paracuellos operation in early November, but later succeeded, supported by colleagues such as Manuel de Irujo, who publicly condemned similar violence in Barcelona. In emphasizing these actions, Ruiz demonstrates the diversity of Republican views on violence, repression and fifth column activism in the intense early months of the Civil War while also arguing that the Government, in the end, did not act itself to stop the killings as they were occurring, thus making itself somewhat complicit in the events. Ruiz is not interested in a comparison of levels of violence carried out by the Republicans vs. the Nationalist side. Rather he seeks to put the events of Paracuellos in a context that influenced not just public order officials like Carrillo to advocate for violence but also the Republican government to turn away from what was happening, at least for a time. In this way, Ruiz argues that Republican repression was fostered by the decision to allow divisive rhetoric from anarchists and other leftists antifascists to develop to such an extent that revolutionary acts must follow. This was the atmosphere of Madrid in 1936. David A. Messenger is a Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of South Alabama. He is the author most recently of Hunting Nazis in Franco’s Spain (LSU Press, 2014).
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