Much as people hold strong and dogmatic opinions about the Spanish Civil War, there is still a lot we don't know.
Like any conflict, details get lost and memories fade. Yet, documents are still being released all the time. Even in the early 1990's, when I studied the Civil War at University, we didn't have the documentation available now, such as the files from the USSR on the role of the Communist Party in the suppression of the Anarchist movement in Spain.
And even today, we still don't have a lot of the documents held by the military or the Church about what happened, and where the victims of Franco were buried.
CIVIL WAR VOLUNTEERS
So, in the absence of facts, we still need to tell stories; stories that invoke feeling, passion and sentiment so often overlooked by documentary evidence alone. So here are the Stories from the foreign volunteers: like the Canadian Doctor Norman Bethune, the British Volunteer Sol Frankel, the Scottish reporter Ethel MacDonald or the observations of George Orwell.
The role of the Anarchists in the Civil War has been more often overlooked, or belittled rather than investigated. Today, anarchy is another word for mob rule. But the theory and practice - two indivisible parts of the whole, was never more clear than those few months in which the Anarchists helped run Catalunya. As Noam Chomsky wrote: Whilst most progressive political forces "oppose the exploitation of man by man, only the anarchists oppose the dominion of man over man".
THE VOLUNTEERS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
THE JEWISH VOLUNTEER: SOL FRANKEL
Sol had already fought against the rising tide of fascism before even stepping foot on Spanish soil. He had fought Mosley's Fascists in Bethnal Green, in London, and he had volunteered to help the Basque refugee children arrive in the UK. For Sol it was not hard to see where the next step would take him: to Spain. But first he had to join the International Brigades. I met Sol to talk about his time as a volunteer, and this is his story.
THE CANADIAN DOCTOR: NORMAN BETHUNE:
Norman Bethune was a Canadian doctor that felt compelled to come to Spain to do what he could to help. His story, from being a volunteer in Madrid, to helping create the first mobile blood bank is an inspiring and fascinating one. But that is just the beginning, for Bethune played a major role in helping those fleeing the city of Malaga on the infamous "Carretera de Muerte". And, if that wasn't enough, he was later treated as a spy, exiled and ended up in China helping Mao, where he became a national hero. Read his story here.
THE REPORTER: GEORGE ORWELL
George Orwell only came to Spain as a journalist, but stayed on as a fighter for the POUM. His decision to join this small radical group of Trotskyists was accidental, but would prove decisive in what he saw, what he could do and what he would later write in the form of Homage to Catalunya, Animal Farm and 1984: three books that still have a lot of teach us about society today.
ANARCHISM IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
The overlooked struggle in the Civil War was undoubtedly the revolutionary activities of the anarchists that set out to build a new society as they defended themselves against the military uprising. In this prefigurative political world, it would not be long before they discovered that it was not just the Fascists they were out to defeat them. In this section, we look at a few of the figures that helped shape the movement. For an extended post on Durruti see here.
ETHEL MCDONALD: THE SCOTTISH REPORTER
What prompted a working class girl from Scotland to come to Spain during the civil war? What compelled her to side with the anarchist movement and what drove her - like George Orwell - to keep on fighting for the truth about what the struggle was really about?
THE BATMOBILE AND CATALAN CARS
Anarchism always has a bad press: disorganised, utopian, unproductIve. Yet that short experiment in Catalunya produced some remarkable examples of what a collectivised and principled society could achieve despite all the pressures from both without and within.
CORLOS FONTSERE AND THE CIVIL WAR POSTERS
Carlos Fontsere (1916 - 2007) was a Catalan Painter, who during the civil war worked as an artist for the Generalitat de Catalunya
In this post, the Gazpachomonk explores one of his posters and relates it to the early 2000's and the saturation of tourism in Spain.