A statue of Friedrich Engels, Marx's collaborator and a theoretician in his own right, has been unveiled in Manchester, England as that city celebrates an international festival. Engels lived in Manchester for more than two decades in the mid-19th century and published "The Condition of the Working Class in England" based on his research in Manchester, where he documented the horrific conditions endured by the working children, women and men in the cradle of industrial capitalism. Moralism and anti-Irish sentiment aside, the book sets a high bar for social research. His "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" and his "Origin of Family, Private Proprty, and the State" still rock. He co-authored the "Manifesto of the Communist Party" with Marx, and the volume "On Colonialism," a collection of articles and essay by Engels and Marx, remains key to understanding colonialism.
Today also marks a sad day. In 1936 the Spanish fascists seized control of a third of the Spanish mainland and martial law was declared in the Canary Islands. The Spanish Revolution, or Civil War, proceeded unevenly, with our divided democratic and revolutionary forces receiving help from the Soviet Union but otherwise blockaded and, eventually, defeated. That defeat did much to give courage to Hitler and Mussolini and bring on the world war. The defeat should have taught us how necessary united and popular fronts are and how to mobilize world popular opinion and discontent in support of anti-fascist objectives.
But the Old Mole is with us, digging. The International Brigade Memorial Trust has posted the following:
On 12 July, Pablo Hernández, representing the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH in Spanish) in Tarancón, Spain, paid his respects at memorials in Perth, Dundee and Kirkcaldy to those who lost their lives fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War as part of the International Brigade.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Jarama in that bloody war, and the Scottish connection with Pablo’s home town is strong; just inside the entrance to the cemetery in Tarancón, nestling under an olive tree, can be found a memorial dedicated to Dundee-born Allan Craig and to the memory of the other 38 Scottish International Brigaders that fell with him at Jarama.
Flanking the memorial are two memorials bearing the names of 44 local victims of the repression that followed the war’s end in 1939, murdered under a fascist dictatorship that ruled Spain until after the death of General Franco in 1975.
‘The sacrifice of the International Brigaders is one that the democracy-loving people of Spain will never forget, one for which we are enormously grateful,’ said Pablo in Scotland. ‘But sadly there are still elements in Spanish society that would deny their valour, and cover up the atrocities that followed the end of the Spanish Civil War. When we seek to address the past, they call for silence, to not reopen wounds – but we say that a wound that has not yet healed cannot be reopened.’
He continued: ‘In February this year the memorial stones in Tarancón cemetery were defaced by silence-loving vandals.
‘To us, this is a sign that our fight must continue. I want to be here to demonstrate that no matter how much paint they throw, the modern fascists cannot obscure the truth of the Brigaders’ sacrifice, nor will they stop us from exposing the dark secrets of the dictatorship and what we know as the Spanish Holocaust.’
ARMH believes that Spain is second only to Cambodia in the world for the number of civilians buried in unexcavated mass graves, and Scottish members of the IBMT actively support the Spanish association in its work to uncover the truth of a period in Spanish history ignored for too long.
Links re-forged between Scotland and Tarancón in arranging for the International Brigade memorial to be installed led to Scottish support for the 2016 installation of the two local memorial stones, and each February a joint ceremony is held around the anniversary of the Battle of Jarama, remembering together the Scottish Brigaders and the local victims.
Attendance this year numbered well over 300, with over 150 international visitors joining locals in reading the roll of honour and observing a moment’s silence in memory of all those named.
Pablo Hernández spoke and laid flowers at the Perth, Dundee and Kirkcaldy International Brigade memorials as part of short commemorations at each site.
I also spoke, as did trip co-ordinator and IBMT member Hamish Drummond. Pablo’s trip also saw him in Inverness, paying his respects in person to Allan Craig jr, the son of Allan Craig, who was just two years old when his father died in a Tarancón hospital as a result of wounds sustained at Jarama.
We do not go away, and we carry on the subversive act of remembering.