The Volunteer http://www.albavolunteer.org Founded by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:22:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Including ALBA in your will http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/including-alba-in-your-will-2/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/including-alba-in-your-will-2/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:47:49 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10834 alba_logoMaking gifts to ALBA in your will is an important source of funding to continue our work. A gift in your will keeps our educational programs growing in the long term. While gifts for specific purposes are always welcome, ALBA is especially grateful for unrestricted gifts that can be used where they are needed most.

To include ALBA in your will, share this paragraph with your attorney:

I hereby give, devise and bequeath to Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), with offices at 799 Broadway, Suite 341, New York, NY 10003 and federal tax ID 13-2996513, or its successors in interest, the sum of $ ( dollars), exclusive of my lifetime donations, if any, to be used for its most urgent needs as determined by its board of governors in their sole discretion.

Alternatively, you can donate a percentage. Ask your attorney about a gift from your residual estate.

To learn more about a gift in your will, contact executive director Marina Garde at 212-674-5398 or mgarde@alba-valb.org.

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ALBA announces matching gift program http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/alba-announces-matching-gift-program/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/alba-announces-matching-gift-program/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:39:48 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10826 picDouble your donation! As a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, ALBA is eligible for many employers’ matching gifts programs. Many companies sponsor matching gift programs that allow their employees to make donations to charitable organizations, which the company then doubles or, in some cases, triples! Be sure to submit your ALBA receipts to your Human Resources department to see if your gift can be matched.

Your Matching Gift Makes a Difference! All matching gifts made to ALBA support our efforts to preserve the legacy of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Your generosity makes inspirational programs, like our Teaching Institutes, possible.

Thank you for your dedicated commitment to the cause!

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Book Review: The Stranger in the Attic http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/book-review-the-stranger-in-the-attic/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/book-review-the-stranger-in-the-attic/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:19:30 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10684 The Stranger in the Attic: Finding a Lost Brother in His Letters Home (Lexington, KY: Jacobs, 2013).]]> The-Stranger-in-the-AtticJohn Kedzie Jacobs, The Stranger in the Attic: Finding a Lost Brother in His Letters Home (Lexington, KY: Jacobs, 2013).

At the end of his physical strength, the Lincoln volunteer Edward Deyo Jacobs was too exhausted to continue running away from the encircling enemy armies during the Retreats of March 1938.  His close friend and fellow artist Doug Taylor elected to stay with him.  They were both swept up by the advancing Nationalists and neither was ever heard from again.

Veteran Arthur Landis authored an article on Jacobs that was published in The Volunteer and is reproduced in this new book.  He concluded the article by noting, “These few paragraphs, plus the accompanying artwork falls far short of being the story of Deyo Jacobs. His background data, the milieu from which he came is missing.”

Now, in The Stranger in the Attic, John Kedzie Jacobs, Edward’s older brother, provides the previously missing story behind the story, using a framework based on letters John Jacobs found in the attic of his family home. These letters written by and to Edward, include those from his friends and family beginning during his childhood in upstate New York and continuing until shortly before his death. John Jacobs does an exceptional job interweaving family history and the letters.

After graduating from high school, Edward enrolled in the Art Students League in Manhattan.  He grew into a talented artist who signed his work Deyo. Jacobs’s letters from New York deal with diverse subjects, including learning about art, life, and making a living during the Great Depression. In 1935, he and Doug Taylor rode the rails to Salt Lake City. The same year he joined the Communist Party.

Edward Jacobs volunteered when the Spanish Civil War broke out and the Communist Party began to recruit volunteers for the International Brigades. He arrived in Spain in early March 1937. Jacobs served on the Jarama Front, at Fuentes de Ebro, Teruel, and the Retreats. His roles were varied and included those of rifleman, staff artist, and topographer. While Jacobs’s letters from Spain make up only a small portion of The Stranger in the Attic, they provide greater insight into his service in Spain.  When family and friends ceased to receive letters, their hope gradually turned to grief. 

The Stranger in the Attic is a powerful addition to the growing library on Spanish Civil War volunteers.  It is both a celebration of life and a poignant reflection of an older brother lost in a foreign war and the subsequent impact on his family.

Chris Brooks, a longtime Board member, directs ALBA’s biographical dictionary project.

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In memory of Paul Sigel (1915-1938) http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/in-memory-of-paul-sigel-1915-1938/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/in-memory-of-paul-sigel-1915-1938/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:15:26 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10691 Leonard Levenson, Paul Sigel, Emanuel Mandel, Elkan Wendkos, and Paul MacEachron at Azaila, Spain, Oct. ’37. ALBA Photo 011, 11_0729. Tamiment Library

Leonard Levenson, Paul Sigel, Emanuel Mandel, Elkan Wendkos, and Paul MacEachron at Azaila, Spain, Oct. ’37. ALBA
Photo 011, 11_0729. Tamiment Library

ALBA is deeply honored by our donors’ confidence and profoundly grateful for their generosity.

Special thanks to Paul Friedlander for establishing a fund in memory of his uncle, volunteer Paul Sigel. The fund is intended to support ALBA’s Teaching Institutes.

In memory of Paul Sigel (1915-1938)

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Book Review: Memories of Basque exile http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/book-review-memories-of-basque-exile/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/book-review-memories-of-basque-exile/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:09:38 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10688 Growing Up in a Time of War. Memoirs of a Young Basque girl’s thirteen-year Odyssey as a refugee of the Spanish Civil War. Third Place Press, 2011. ]]> ShueyArantza Cazalis Shuey, Growing Up in a Time of War. Memoirs of a Young Basque girl’s thirteen-year Odyssey as a refugee of the Spanish Civil War. Third Place Press, 2011.

In her memoirs of her experiences as a Basque refugee of the Spanish Civil War, Arantza Cazalis Shuey presents the reader with a wrenching and nostalgia-provoking episode of Spanish history: the plight of los niños de la guerra (war children). This is the story of the Gernika generation–some 25,000 Basque children who escaped war-torn Spain in the late 1930s.    

Chronologically divided into nine chapters, Cazalis’s saga recounts her journey from Spain to the United States, via France and the Caribbean. The memoir opens with a detailed depiction of her native Ermua, an industrial Basque town which like the neighboring Eibar, was deeply impacted by the armed conflict. Through a description of her family’s genealogy, the author offers a vivid portrait of the idiosyncrasies of the Basque people, their language and their traditions.

Life in Ermua changed drastically with Franco’s coup. Arantza’s world crumbled in 1936 when her region became a stage for resistance against the rebel troops. Within a year, Arantza, now on a French train returning to Spain, had crisscrossed northern Spain and France seeking refuge and mourning the loss of her mother, killed by a bomb in Carranza. Shortly after her arrival in Barcelona, the 9-year-old Arantza lost her older brother Imanol, although she was, by this point, already so traumatized by the war that, “[she does not] remember crying.”

When World War II broke out in 1939, Arantza’s family was able to obtain visas for Trujillo’s Dominican Republic and left Bordeaux aboard the ship La Salle, disembarking on Caribbean soil on December 21, 1939. Arantza portrays the embodiment of “her new culture” (the rich gastronomy, sensual landscape and traditions of the Dominican Republic) as her family moved from Ciudad Trujillo (Santo Domingo) to the rural town Constanza to begin farming, supported by the plot of tillable land that the government granted to refugee families.

The chapters that focus on the life of Basque exiles living under the Trujillo regime represent a fascinating and, to date, still unstudied snapshot of the Republican exile story. This memoir thus presents a rarely explored geographical destination in Basque children’s exile as well as the larger cultural, linguistic, and social implications of Basque-Caribbean transculturation.  Once in the rural town Costanza, a mountain region whose institutions reflect the repression of Trujillo’s regime, the new family’s baserri (Basque word for the traditional farm) becomes a collage of Basque and Caribbean styles of farming, gardening, and urban traditions. While the conventional Basque repertoire of house animals is increased by the addition of Caribbean fauna such as parrots, in the baratz (vegetable garden) the family plants potatoes along with “sweet lemon trees” and other native plants of the island. 

Once established in the village, Arantza returns to school, and her story recounts her coming-of-age sexual experiences and her first friendships with local girls. The town also became a place where Arantza and her family could reconnect with Basque and other Spanish refugees, portrayed in episodes recounting a visit by a Basque priest and her memories of a Spanish family-owned hotel.

At the end of World War II, the family moved again “with the hope of finding a boat that would take us to Mexico.” Crossing the Caribbean would not prove easy: the war had frozen all maritime activities. Just as the family was about to lose hope of leaving the island, they managed to fly to Cuba and from there, to travel to their final destination in a fishing boat.

Arantza was 16 years old when she saw Mexico City for the first time. Her memoir closes with her arrival in Idaho to teach a Spanish conversation course in December 1948. Her journey had lasted almost 13 years.

Like Basque-American Mirim Isasi´s memoir in Basque Girl (1940), Cazalis Shuey´s traces the Basque-American diaspora.  Nevertheless, Growing Up in a Time of War is a unique literary piece that acknowledges the Basque influx in a country that, second to Mexico, hosted the greatest number of Basque refugees, and that housed one delegation of the Basque Government-in-exile from 1940.  By departing from the most recurrent destinations (France, Belgium, England and Mexico) portrayed in works dealing with the Gernika generation, Cazalis´s volume reveals a new dimension of the Basque children exile experience waiting to be discovered by readers and researched by scholars.

Originally from the Basque Country, Nagore Sedano is a Ph.D. student in Romance Languages and Literature at the University of Oregon.

]]> http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/book-review-memories-of-basque-exile/feed/ 0 Letter from ALBA: Spread the word http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/letter-from-alba-spread-the-word/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/letter-from-alba-spread-the-word/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:07:29 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10635 Dear Friends,

It was thrilling to receive such positive responses to our September issue, featuring Pablo Iglesias, the 36-year-old political scientist who may well be Spain’s next Prime Minister. (Even Pablo himself took to Twitter to say how honored he was to be on our cover.) Events in Spain continue to develop in an exciting direction; PODEMOS is now leading in the national polls.

You may have noticed that the magazine you are holding, like the September issue, features a color cover. Over the past year we have been working to improve The Volunteer’s visual identity to be as compelling as its content. This is part of our effort to reach out to younger generations of readers, activists, and ALBA supporters. The creativity and commitment with which the generations who have been hardest hit by the economic crisis—people who are now in their 20s and 30s—are taking to the streets, the media, and politics is a source of hope and inspiration. When they learn about the Lincoln Brigade they immediately get it. That’s really no surprise: today’s young activists are as internationalist as the volunteers were, whether their concern is climate change, economic inequality, or human rights.

You’ve heard our slogan: Know History to Change History .This month we are particularly proud to feature two exclusive excerpts from new books dealing with the connection between the Spanish Civil War and the fight against the Nazis. In the middle of this issue you will find eight pages from a wonderful new graphic novel about the Spaniards who fought fascism in World War II by the prize-winning artist Paco Roca, who worked on this project with ALBA board member Bob Coale. We are also honored to present you with a section of Paul Preston’s new biography of Santiago Carrillo, which will be published in the U.S. next month.

October and November were a whirlwind of ALBA activity. ALBA’s Human Rights Film Festival in New York attracted hundreds of visitors, many of whom were new to the organization. Our Bay Area reunion drew a higher turnout than previous years and the stack of Pete Seeger’s CD Songs of the Spanish Civil War, in a new release with liner notes by ALBA’s Peter Glazer, sold out in minutes. The day after the reunion, Marina spent a lovely and inspiring day with Lincoln veteran Del Berg in his California home. In late October, we had the opportunity to present our newly developed high school curriculum to the heads of Social Studies departments in the country’s eighth largest school district in Florida. In November we held no fewer than three teacher institutes in New Jersey, Illinois, and New York. Attendance broke last year’s record numbers.

That we can do so much is thanks to you. We don’t need to tell you how important your donations are to keep our small but ambitious organization afloat. And we also rely on you to spread the word about ALBA and the Lincoln Brigade, about our Human Rights Award winners and our high school curriculum. When you’ve read your issue of The Volunteer, pass it on to a young person. Forward our emails or share them on Facebook. If you know high school teachers, or have school-aged children, point them to our new teachers’ website. The Lincolns’ story is too important. We cannot allow it to be forgotten.

Salud,

 

Sebastiaan Faber Chair of the Board of Governors

Sebastiaan Faber
Chair of the Board of Governors

Marina Garde Executive Director

Marina Garde
Executive Director

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Book Review: Hotel Florida http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/book-review-hotel-florida/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/book-review-hotel-florida/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:05:24 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10679 Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.]]> hotelfloridaAmanda Vaill. Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

In 1923, French writer and intellectual André Malraux, hoping to offset his recent losses in the stock market, traveled to Cambodia to steal some bas-reliefs from the ancient Khmer temple Banteay Srei. He was eventually caught and spent a year in jail. Years later, Malraux wrote a book about the experiences and the injustices he faced. In 1936 he would become involved in the Spanish Civil War, where he also told a story about his efforts, writing a novel, directing a movie, and making himself famous in many circles.

The history of the Spanish Civil War has quite a few characters and adventurers who at some level, like Malraux, exploited the conflict for their own gain by telling stories. Amanda Vaill’s Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War chronicles the lives of six journalists who could fit this description: Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Arturo Barea, and Ilsa Kulcsar. The title refers to a hotel in Madrid where many intellectuals, writers, and politicians congregated during the conflict.  A carefully researched reconstruction of these six figures based on letters, diaries, biographies, photographs and film, Hotel Florida explores how each individual approached the issue of “truth” and personal integrity during war.

Arturo Barea, Madrid’s chief press officer, and Ilsa Kulcsar, his assistant, worked tirelessly and valiantly for the Republic, trying to tell the truth about the war in the conviction that the truth (not propaganda) would ultimately speak to the outside world. They were met with much resistance from the Republican bureaucracy, and towards the end of the war, Ilsa received death threats. Writers Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, by far the most entertaining of the characters described in Hotel Florida, fare the worst in terms of the author´s censure.  The man who explained his writing by saying “All you have to do is write one true sentence,” apparently also wrote a lot of propaganda in his journalistic pieces about the war, and constantly exaggerated his feats of killing of bears in hunting excursions and dodging bullets in battle. Martha Gellhorn, his blonde mistress, who Hemingway once said he wanted to marry (and later did) because “she´s got the longest, smoothest, straightest legs in the world” went fur shopping on days when there was nothing to do, and wrote in her journal: “Come what may, one washes one’s hair, has one’s nails tended, sends out the laundry.” Amanda Vaill presents photographers Robert Capa (Endre Friedmann) and Gerda Taro (Gerta Pohorylle) as young, energetic, fearless individuals, who managed to leave their past behind and become famous and known through their original up-close photographs of the Spanish Civil War. The book also suggests that perhaps they did not fully comprehend the gravity of what they were doing until the very end.

All of the six felt called to Spain because they longed to be involved in something bigger than themselves, and to have something worthwhile to write about or photograph. Some of them had additional motives of fame, adventure, or escape. One gets a fuller picture of how Spain became a popular international venue for intellectuals and artists to spout and show-off their moral fortitude and bravery as well as their talents, and the book is replete with anecdotal descriptions of these characters and their friends gathering in the cafes and bars until wee hours of the night, drinking, discussing, and eating the last rations of sardines.  Vaill also manages a careful and unique balance between hope and realism. The real heroes presented in this book are not the self-absorbed Hemingways and Malrauxs of the war, but rather the ordinary Spanish people and members of the International Brigades who were fighting selflessly for a better future for their country with no hope of fame. The author manages to convey the idiosyncrasies and complexities of politics and human nature. In this sense, Vaill manages, without idealizing or becoming overly cynical, to create an engaging, inspiring, and poignant narrative about one of the great tragedies of the 20th century.

Katherine Stafford teaches Spanish literature at Lafayette College in Easton PA.

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Faces of ALBA: Dale Hueber http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/faces-of-alba-dale-hueber/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/faces-of-alba-dale-hueber/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:13:41 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10663 Dale Hueber

Dale Hueber

Teaching the Spanish Civil War in AP World History

Dale Hueber did not follow the usual path to teaching history.  His initial degree was in music education with a goal of becoming a band director.  Instead, he enlisted in the Army, became an officer and served for 22 years.  After he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, he wanted to teach but not as a band director.  He pursued a Masters in Social Studies Education at the University of South Florida. “On the day I retired from the Army,” Hueber said, “my daughters’ high school principal asked if I was ready to teach and whether I could teach world history and government.” The books and materials were waiting for him at the school.  That was 15 years ago; he has been teaching in East Bay High School in the Hillsborough School District (Tampa, Florida) ever since.  For the last 11 years he has taught Advanced Placement World History.

You attended your first ALBA institute in 2008. What did you get out of it?

I didn’t know much about American involvement in the Spanish Civil War, or the international involvement on both the Republic and Fascist sides.  It was a boiling point, especially with the breakdown of the League of Nations.  It told Hitler he could do what he wanted.

How many institutes have you attended?

I have attended three institutes. I also developed a lesson plan around Paul Robeson that was well received by teachers and has also worked well with students. The new Florida state social studies standards require a listening component to the primary sources and so I use a song from Robeson when I get to the Spanish Civil War.

How do you integrate the Spanish Civil War into your curriculum?

I do a single day on it, which is a lot of time in the AP World History curriculum.  I developed a Documents Based Question (DBQ) at the teaching institute that I use in class. Students are doing DBQs at a very high level by the time we get to the Spanish Civil War. They have no trouble identifying the point of view in any primary source, which is a key part of the DBQ section on the AP exam. But the way I approach the topic changes from year to year.  Sometimes I use the Paul Robeson comic from the ALBA curriculum resources (http://www.alba-valb.org/resources/document-library/volunteer-june-2009).  I always bring in Picasso’s Guernica because students are sophomores and they are already familiar with the painting from their art curriculum.  I also show video clips from the institute.  The AP World History curriculum focuses on getting students to recognize when focal points happen and how their impact diffuses in history.  Students get the Spanish Civil War.  They can connect it with contemporary events, such as Syria, where the U.S. dropped that ended up in the enemy’s hands, and both sides are supplied with weapons from outside sources.  Look at ISIS, smartly recruiting Muslims from around the world. History lessons never get old.

Do students latch onto the Spanish Civil War?

I show the video The Century: America’s Time, narrated by Peter Jennings.  The section on World War II opens with Guernica, so it reinforces the significance of the Spanish Civil War.  Together, the primary sources and Paul Robeson, Guernica, and the video lock it in for the students.  It is one of the few single events with a narrow scope and duration that I drill down into throughout the whole year.  I believe that the training with ALBA and the University of South Florida is important and needs to continue. It not only provides teachers and students with information about a pivotal moment in the 20th century, but does so with a wealth of different resources and methodologies.

ALBA board member Aaron B. Retish teaches Russian History at Wayne State University.

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The Spaniards who helped liberate Paris http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/the-spaniards-who-helped-liberate-paris/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/the-spaniards-who-helped-liberate-paris/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:10:22 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10666 Graphic novelist Paco Roca worked with ALBA’s Bob Coale to chronicle the odyssey of “La Nueve,” the company of Spanish Republicans who fought the Nazis with General LeClerc.

roca_vivaPostwar France was built on the proud notion that the whole country had bravely resisted the German occupation. As late as the 1960s, Tony Judt wrote, “any questioning of the myth of a heroic, nationwide resistance was still off limits—in historiography as in national life.” What this myth obscured was not only the extent of French collaboration with the Nazis; it also erased the key role played in the resistance and liberation by non-French volunteers—particularly Spaniards. Thousands of the half million Spanish Republicans who had poured across the Pyrenees in 1938 and 1939 continued their fight against fascism in anti-Nazi guerrilla groups (the maquis) and in General Charles De Gaulle’s Free French Forces. After their liberation from concentration camps in North Africa, hundreds joined the newly created Leclerc Division, in the well-founded belief—and implicit promise—that a defeat of Nazi Germany would lead to a defeat of Franco. It was a promise that the political situation in 1945, with the incipient cold war, did not allow to be fulfilled.

The half-track “Guadalajara” in Paris, August ’44.

The half-track “Guadalajara” in Paris, August ’44.

The company of LeClerc’s armored infantry with the largest contingent of Spanish was the Ninth. Even non-Spanish-speakers, referred to it as “la Nueve” not the French “la Nuevième.” The half-tracks of this company—guided by an Armenian volunteer on a motorbike—were the first to enter occupied Paris on August 24, 1944. The Spaniards had named their vehicles for the battlefields in which the Republic had beaten the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.

Paco Roca

Paco Roca

Most of these Spanish soldiers had survived a grueling odyssey. After three years of civil war, they had passed through French concentration camps, fought a long North African campaign, and spent a training period in England. They had disembarked on Utah beach in Normandy in early August and fought their way to the capital. It’s a riveting story that is nevertheless still largely unknown to the public. It’s unknown in France, for the reasons just outlined. But it’s equally unknown in Spain, which until recently preferred not to see its history in relation to World War II.

Paco Roca’s Los surcos del azar (The Furrows of Chance), which came out to critical acclaim in Spain in 2013, now tells this story for the first time as a 300-page graphic novel. Roca, who was born in Valencia in 1969, is one of Spain’s foremost graphic artists; his 2007 novel Arrugas (Wrinkles) won the National Comics Award. Los Surcos took him four years to write. Set in present-day France, it features a Spanish writer named Paco who tracks down Miguel Campos, aka Miguel Ruiz, a surviving veteran of “La Nueve.” After some coaxing, Miguel tells Paco his story through long flashbacks. Miguel’s character is based on one of the most famous members of the company, who disappeared in combat in December 1944. Some claim he was killed, and others that he deserted the French army to participate in the underground against Franco.

“La Nueve” in England, spring 1944.

“La Nueve” in England, spring 1944.

What sets Surcos apart is not just Roca’s superior drawing and storytelling, his eye for detail and anecdote, and his graphic ingenuity (with the present-day frame drawn in gray tones and the flashbacks in color), but also the high level of historical accuracy. Here Roca acknowledges the crucial assistance of the Paris-based historian Robert S. Coale, who is a long-time ALBA board member. Bob Coale’s own book on one of the members of “La Nueve,” which he has spent over a decade writing, is scheduled to be published next year.

The excerpt published below is from one of the novel’s last sections, starting with the last-minute decision to enter Paris rather than continuing east. We also meet Larry Cane, a veteran of the Lincoln Brigade who, as a member of the U.S. armed forces, had landed in France on D-Day and was thrilled to run into his former Spaniards comrades.

The Spanish-language edition of Los surcos del azar, published by Astiberri Ediciones, can be ordered here.

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Mind-boggling lies: Preston on Carrillo http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/mind-boggling-lies-paul-preston-on-santiago-carrillo/ http://www.albavolunteer.org/2014/12/mind-boggling-lies-paul-preston-on-santiago-carrillo/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:04:09 +0000 http://www.albavolunteer.org/?p=10673 Last_Stalinist_cover

Preston’s revealing exposé of Carrillo’s ruthless rise to power within the Party—a career strewn with lies, crimes, and betrayals—destroyed the positive image that Carrillo had managed to build in the wake of the democratic Transition, and to maintain until his death in 2012, at 97. I spoke with Preston in the summer of last year, as he was correcting the final proofs for the Spanish edition.

Is your critique of Carrillo particularly harsh because it’s coming from the Left?

“There will be people on the right who say: Even left-wing historian Paul Preston criticizes Carrillo. I knew him and liked him but I ended up indignantly concluding that he undermined the struggle against Franco. By imposing unrealistic strategies, and destroying those who criticized him, he squandered the efforts and sacrifices of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffered under and against the dictatorship.”

How do you explain the transformation of his image over the past quarter century?

Paul Preston. Photo Marshall Mateer.

Paul Preston. Photo Marshall Mateer.

“He left politics in 1985, but he lived for another thirty-seven years—years that were used to build up an image of him as an utterly wonderful character who always had the national interest at heart.  It is true that Carrillo played a very important role in the transition to democracy, by presenting the Communist Party as extremely moderate. And clearly, Carrillo’s role during the night of the February, 1981 military coup is commendable. His own explanation of what he did—one of the three people in parliament who did not hide under their desks when Tejero and the others started shooting—is one of the few moments where I find him credible. He said he was sure he was going to die, and he did not want people to say that the leader of the Communist Party died as a coward. If I am going to be shot, he thought, I might was well be shot sitting up rather than lying down.

“But what that positive image of Carrillo as some sort of national treasure hides, is the viciousness with which he rose to power and the dirty tricks he did on comrades. And the lies are just mind-boggling. As you read the material you can’t help thinking, Oh, for God’s sake! Let me give you an example. Carrillo’s great obsession in exile was the Huelga Nacional Pacífica, the pacific national strike, or HNP. He stuck to this against everybody’s advise, especially that of Claudín and Semprún, and he did so with great damage to the militants in Franco Spain. Well, in an interview with Rosa Montero from the late seventies, he actually says: We wouldn’t have insisted so much on the HNP if it hadn’t been for Claudín—when in fact he got rid of Claudín for criticizing it!”

Is your critique of Carrillo a critique of the Left in general?

“A good part of my book is how Stalinist practice ended up undermining the Communist Party. But that doesn’t mean that I would remotely draw the conclusion that the Left as a whole was corrupt or flawed. I still believe that, overall, Communist policy during the Civil War was the only sensible one. And Carrillo during the war actually does a very good job as a leader as the United Socialist Youth (JSU), which is what provides the bulk of the rank and file of the Republican forces.”

You yourself lived part of this history.

“The reason I was able to finish this book in relatively quick time is because in a sense it’s a book I’ve been thinking about for forty years. I worked as an interpreter for the Junta Democrática in the late 1970s, I knew Carrillo and knew a lot of the protagonists quite well. My role was what they would call a tonto útil, a useful fellow traveler. The people I was closest to at that time all have ended up hating Carrillo’s guts. Everybody turned on him, because he had already turned on everyone else.”

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