Jaume Claret, Brief History of the International Brigades, the books of the Cataract, Madrid, 2016, 94 pages. Foreword by Antonio Selva Iniesta and Juan Sisinio Pérez Garzón.
The call of the anti-fascist Spain
Salvador López Arnal
The Old Mole
Jaume Claret published his commended doctoral thesis in 2006: the atrocious topping. The destruction of the Spanish university under Francoism, 1936-1945. Author of numerous articles and works on the II Spanish Republic, the Francoism and the transition, in 2014 he published, together with Manuel Santirso, the construction of Catalanism. History of a political eagerness. The book we discussed is its latest publication and the theme, this time, is still an essential issue for all of us, the brigades in our war of resistance. Remember it and remember it to others, suggested Luis Cernuda. Claret reminds us of the substantive of this indelible historical page in a work that is not properly researched but rather of concise approximation and dissemination to an almost uncomprehendable topic. It is divided into a presentation and in five short chapters: 1. The creation of the International Brigades. 2. Brigades. 3. The war of the Brigades. 4. The retreat. 5. The memory of the International Brigades.
Some notes to locate. Remember that the International Brigades grouped anti-fascist volunteers from more than 50 countries. Some, recalls Claret, came to fight for the Republic in generic, "whereas the majority fought by concrete ideologies, all of left, or against the rebels on July 18, 1936 that had fascist supports" (P. 35).
1. The novelty of the brigades.
"In 1936, Spain was a marginal country in the international concert. And yet the outbreak of the Civil War was assumed as an intimate and direct appeal by thousands of young people from all over the world. The novelty was not the involvement of foreigners in domestic matters, because we have examples such as Lord Byron in the War of independence of Greece, but its number, its diversity of origins and its ideological root. From their point of view, the Spanish war was a just cause, it was the first stage of the confrontation against fascism, it was the defense of some democratic values for some, revolutionaries for others "(p. 14)
2. Communist organizations.
"Paris was the epicenter of recruitment of volunteers while in each country the local communist organizations or associations and institutions of solidarity guaranteed the capacity of the appeal. Thus, we find the Spanish Cultural center of Oran or the Amsterdam-Pleyel Committee, headed by the German communist and relevant picture of the Comintern, Willy Mïunzerberg (1880-1940), later become anti-fascist and Antistalinist deceased in Strange circumstances in occupied France "(p. 27).
3. Albacete as a base.
"The main base of the brigades was installed in the aerodrome Albacete de los Llanos, which was joined by other sites distributed by the province of Albacete as the Roda, Tarazona de La Mancha and Burrows, and also the nearby province of Cuenca, as Villanueva de The Jara. Among these localities were distributed the different bases of infantry, artillery, cavalry, tanks and aviation, thus the various logistic centers and of support. The election of Albacete was argued for its situation far from the fronts and the large urban centers and, at the same time, equidistant and with good communication with the aforementioned fronts "(p. 29).
4. Composition and evolution.
"In the first of 1937, after the Battle of Jarama, a restructuring of the brigades began, making them more homogeneous by nationalities… In the autumn of 1937, the Comintern gave a new impetus to the recruitment campaign. In February 1938, a maximum of 1,300 volunteers were reached. It was his swan song. In fact, in spite of maintaining the name of international Brigades, Spanish units began to cover the casualties and the transfers, because, for example, the battalions Franco-Belgian and German of the XII Brigade were attached to other forces. At the end of 1937, 60% of the brigades were, in fact, Spanish recruits "(p. 33).
5. Number and dead.
"We also know that on the ground we never exceeded the 20000 volunteers of December 1937, as in general the stays were short and frequent relays. In a stable way, the figure probably stood at 15000. With regard to the deaths, casualties were very high, close to 10,000 according to Víctor Hurtado. To these must be added the 7,000 prisoners, disappeared and deserters, and the 13,000 evacuated. Logically, the lowest nationality was the French, with 2,659, because French were the largest contingent of volunteers, followed by the 1,053 of Germany… " (p. 36).
"The main motivation of these volunteers was ideological. Three characteristics stand out; A majority of militants and communist sympathizers, an overwhelming social worker origin, because it had this condition 80, 1% of the brigades, and in all the cases an active commitment of fight against fascism "(p. 37)
7. The return.
"The return of the brigades to their countries of origin was marked by the rarefied prewar climate of the spring and summer of 1939. In Paris, the welcome was the last massive act that could organize the government of the French people's front, already in disintegration and regression. This was not an obstacle for those volunteers who had participated in the Spanish Civil War, but had not complied with the French military service, to be subjected to war councils. The reception in London had a popular and politically open character, with a prominent participation of the Labour Party militants. On the other hand, new York, the only official presence was that of the police who surrounded both the brigades and the scarce family, friends and sympathizers who attended the appointment. It is striking the case of Switzerland, where its 400 brigades were sentenced to sentences of between one and six months "(pp. 82-83).
If any critical note were necessary it could be noted the non-reference (not the forgetfulness or the ignorance) to one of the great poems of the universal literature on the Brigades-"1936", Luis Cernuda-and a perhaps better observation (and certainly hasty) in the Last compasses of its presentation: "As ironically emphasizes the historian of the science Eduard Aibar, Wikipedia is for the academics like the pornography for the general population, everybody uses it, but nobody recognizes it".
Bibliographic sources are listed on pages 93-94. There are no footnotes to facilitate reading and it would have been convenient a nominal index to close this short essay that deserves our attention, which is read magnificently, which is written with sensitivity and knowledge of the subject, which teaches and stimulates new Readings. What more can you ask for?
Of all the stories of history the saddest story is that of Spain wrote the poet. Not in this case. This is one of the most beautiful and generous stories (also tragic and painful) of the history of Spain and the history of humanity, a great page of the White Book of Communism yet to be written. Claret collects a poem-"The Volunteer"-of the father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Cecil Day-Lewis communist militant in those years, which helps us to capture this greatness: "It was neither deceit nor stupidity,/glory, vengeance nor money/we came because our eyes open/ They saw no other way/There was no other way of keeping/the flickering of the truth of the men lit:/the stars will witness that our cause/burnt shorter, but not with less light. "
Source: The old Mole, December 2016