CONFERENCIA DADA EL 17 DE FEBRERO DEL 2004 CON MOTIVO DE LA PRESENTACIÓN DEL LIBRO
XV Brigade International.
EN LA BIBLIOTECA PÚBLICA ARÚS.
COMINTERN ARMY. The International Brigades in Spain.[i]
by Andy Durgan
By 1936, in a world ravaged by economic crisis and mass unemployment, after the victories of Mussolini and Hitler and the emergence of similar movements elsewhere, fascism seemed unstoppable. But the thirties also saw the rise of huge working class resistance, of mass strikes, militant anti-fascism and political radicalisation. When the Spanish Civil War began it immediately became a rallying point for millions who saw there was, at last, a chance to stop the fascist beast in its tracks. Only in this context can we understand why nearly 30,000 men from 53 different countries were prepared to go and fight and, in many cases, die in Spain in one of the most dramatic examples of internationalism in working class history. The impact of the Spanish War has been such that it has generated more literature than any other war - over 40,000 titles according to one estimate[ii] - as well as having inspired a generation of poets, writers and artists. As volunteer Walter Gregory recalled many years later no “other international or domestic political issue (had) such an explosive impact upon the British working class...”.[iii]
When the International Brigades were given an emotional and multitudinous farewell in Barcelona on 28 October 1938, the Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri, “La Pasionaria”, declared, “You can go proudly. You are history. You are legend... the heroic example of democracy’s solidarity and universality”. Like all legends, that of the IBs wavers between myth and reality. The opening of the former Soviet archives means that we can now get an even clearer view of the nature and role of the Brigades. Thousands of working class militants showed with their heroism and sacrifice what proletarian internationalism could really mean. But their participation was also part of a wider policy engineered by Stalin both to win an alliance with the Western Democracies and to maintain his influence in the international labour movement. The IBs, like the rest of the Communist movement, were subordinated to this aim.
From the start the war in Spain became the centre of international attention. There was much at stake: the balance of power between the democracies and the emerging authoritarian regimes, the danger of the war spreading beyond Spain’s frontiers and the spectre of revolution. It was the fascist powers which reacted first, seeing in Franco a valuable ally and in Spain a theatre of operations to try out new weapons and strategies. The majority of foreigners who took part in the Civil War did so on the Fascist side. The Italians sent at least 70,000 men during the nearly three years the war lasted, the Germans 14,000, mainly advisors, artillery and airmen, the Portuguese dictatorship 20,000 and there were 34,000 Foreign Legion and Moroccan troops. This manpower was accompanied by abundant supplies of arms, ammunition and aircraft. There were few genuine fascist volunteers, nearly all being regular army personnel. The largest volunteer force were the 600 raised by the Irish fascist leader Eoin O’Duffy, whose only contribution of note was to open fire on their own side.
The bourgeois democracies, led by Britain, France and the USA, balked at being drawn into a war that could undermine their attempts to maintain peace in Europe. The revolution taking place in much of the Republican zone in 1936 made them even more reluctant to back a government that seemed to have little control over the situation and, when it did manage to exert control, was under the increasing dominance of the Communist Party. The desperate attempts by the Communists and their allies to present the Civil War as one simply to defend democracy was never going to convince the Western governments, or at least these countries’ ruling classes, whose natural sympathies lay with Franco. Although the French Popular Front government was initially prepared to send military supplies to its Spanish counter-parts, it was soon persuaded by the British Tory administration that helping the Republic would damage imperial interests in the Mediterranean. Hence these powers’ backing for the cynical policy of non-intervention. Germany and Italy also adhered to the Non-Intervention Committee, and then systematically ignored its decisions. The effect of non-intervention, only ever seriously pursued by the democracies, was to deny the Republic desperately needed military aid and facilitate the fascist victory.
The organisation of the International Brigades.
Prior to the organising of the IBs there were already hundreds of foreign volunteers fighting in the workers’ militias. These included political refugees already living in Spain and individuals who made their way into Spain once the war started. Most of these foreigners joined up in Barcelona where up to 1,500 international volunteers attached themselves, sometimes quite arbitrarily, to the anarchist, Communist and POUM militias in the first weeks of the war.[iv] They included over 200 athletes who had come to the Catalan capital to take part in the People’s Olympiad, which was to have been the Left’s answer to the Nazi-organised official games in Germany.
The arrival of large numbers of foreign volunteers in the Republican zone would not start until after the Comintern’s (CI) decision to form the Brigades. Neither the anarchists nor the independent marxist groups had the strength outside Spain to organise a force of any significance and the Socialist and Labour parties lacked the political willpower to do so. At first, the Soviet government opposed sending money and medical aid because it feared this would be used by Germany and Italy to justify helping the fascist side. Instead, it had immediately started to organise non-military aid both through the CI and the Soviet Trade Unions. On 23 August, Stalin’s government accepted the French proposal for the setting up of a Non-Intervention Committee, “on condition that the USSR was not responsible for Comintern actions, that Germany and Italy must cease aid to Franco and that Portugal must accept non-intervention”.[v]
The Soviet Union decided to support the Republic militarily once it became clear that the scale of fascist intervention could decisively tip the balance of forces in favour of Franco. Soviet military aid did not come, however, without conditions. The whole Spanish gold reserve was shipped to the USSR for “safe-keeping” before any arms arrived on Spanish soil and subsequently the Republic was grossly overcharged for the arms sent.[vi] During the following two years the USSR sent some 2,000 military advisors and airmen along with military aid that would prove crucial in holding up Franco’s advance, but along with this aid came the Soviet secret police, the NKVD and Stalin’s demand for an end to the revolution. Underlying these conditions was Stalin’s aim to keep the Civil War going until an alliance was formed with the democracies to face the inevitable war in Europe.
The decision to form the IBs was taken at the CI Executive Committee meeting of 18 September 1936, only nine days after the first meeting of the Non-Intervention Committee, and should be seen within the context of the Soviet commitment to send military aid to the Republic.[vii] The setting up of such a force had several advantages for the USSR. It would be a very clear indication throughout the world of Soviet internationalism and anti-fascism and thus reinforce Communist influence. In particular, the organising of the Brigades on a non-sectarian basis, where not just Communists but socialists, independents and even liberals would be recruited, fitted perfectly with the politics of the Popular Front. The creation of the Brigades would also solve the problem of what to do with Communist émigrés living in the USSR and proved a very convenient way of introducing NKVD agents into Spain.
The actual organising of the IBs was to be carried out by the Communist Parties, each being given a quota of volunteers to recruit. A key role was reserved for the French Communist Party (PCF) in getting the volunteers into Spain and various CI leaders went to France to help with this operation. In Spain itself, Albacete was chosen as the IBs’ base and the first volunteers arrived there on 13 October, two days before the first Soviet arms ship docked in Cartagena. They were soon joined by other foreigners already fighting in Spain. On 22 October, the Republican government officially recognised the IBs as part of the Republican Army, albeit with their own commanders and infrastructure.
The composition of the Brigades.
Despite the official Communist position that the IBs would be a military extension of the Popular Front, the reality was that they were heavily dependent on the Communists. Between 80 and 90% of the Germans, up to 85% of the Latin Americans, 75% of the Poles and volunteers from the Balkans, around 70% of the American and 60% of the French volunteers were members of the Communist Party.[viii]
More important, in terms of Communist control of the IBs, was the role played by military cadres sent from the Soviet Union by the CI. These included many Soviet citizens of foreign origin, who had ended up in Russia during the revolution, usually as prisoners of war, had joined the Communist Party and had become officers in the Red Army. One such case was that of General “Emilio Kleber”, the first commander of the IBs, who had been a former officer in the Austro-Hungarian army and had previously been sent by the Red Army as a military advisor to the Chinese Communists. Kleber had arrived in Spain on 15 September, that is three days before the CI’s decision to organise the Brigades. Like other foreign Communists with military experience, he fought as an officer in the Communist-led 5th Regiment In late October, Kleber was proposed by the Spanish party to Prime Minister Largo Caballero as commander of the IBs. Other Communist exiles sent by the CI to Spain, particularly those of German and Central European origin, had gone to the USSR for military training. Among these, for example, were several former leaders of the short-lived Soviet Republic of Hungary of 1919. In all, about five to six hundred IBers had previously been in the Soviet Union.[ix]
In addition to those who came directly from the USSR, Communist and other anti-fascist exiles, often resident in France, also volunteered to fight. The war in Spain gave them the perfect opportunity to fight back against fascism and to escape the indignities of exile life. As one German IB commander, put it, “the only way we can get back to Germany is through Madrid”.[x] The legal Communist Parties also played an important role in recruiting volunteers. With the depression and the growing threat of fascism, followed by the turn to the Popular Front, most parties had grown spectacularly. PCF membership, for instance, had risen from 28,825 in 1933 to 254,000 by September 1936.[xi] There appears to have been no shortage of volunteers at first and most parties turned men away. Like the anti-fascist exiles, many of those who went to Spain had fought in street battles against the fascists, on picket lines and in unemployment campaigns. Many American volunteers had experience of fighting the police “anti-red” squads and bosses’ thugs, or in the dangerous drives to organise black farm workers in the south. A few had played a leading role in military mutinies. For instance, the future Commander-in-Chief of the Brigades, André Marty had been a leader of the famous Black Sea mutiny in the French Navy in 1919.
The recruitment process in Britain was probably representative of what happened in most democracies. Recruitment was carried out discreetly, potential volunteers often being approached by local CP organisers, before being interviewed and warned of the dangers involved. Non-party volunteers were checked up on by trusted local party members. Both the American and British Parties, at least, tried to avoid sending too many leading members. Upon leaving their countries volunteers were often harassed or even arrested by the police. This was the case both in the USA and Britain where it was illegal to enlist in a foreign army and where the authorities were most determined to impose non-intervention. Given restrictions on the issuing of passports, British volunteers usually travelled on special week-end returns to France, for which passports were not necessary. Movement across France and into Spain was less complicated, due to the slightly more benevolent attitude of the French authorities and the influence of the PCF.
Of the estimated 53 nations from which volunteers came, the largest contingent were the French, about 9,000. There were also up to 5,000 Germans and Austrians, 3,000 Poles, 3,000 Italians, 2,800 Americans, 1,800 British, 1,600 Belgians, 1,660 Yugoslavs and 1,500 Czechoslovakians.[xii] Even inside the different contingents there was often a wide range of nationalities. The American contingent was made up of volunteers from 35 different national groups. Of 1,448 Canadians who went to Spain there were at least 14 different ethnic groups represented and 498 were of Eastern European origin. Jews were particularly prominent in the IBs, making up between 30 to 40% of US volunteers and between three and seven thousand of the IBers as a whole. There were 81 Afro-Americans in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, nearly all of them Communists and for the first time in US military history a black officer, Oliver Law, led white troops into battle.[xiii]
Because of the participation in the Spanish Civil War, at least as prominent supporters of the Republican cause, of various well-known intellectual figures, Stephen Spender’s claim that it was a “poet’s war” has been given too much credibility. In fact, over 80% of the volunteers were from a manual working class background. Many were unemployed and most were young - the average age of American volunteers was 26. [xiv]
The revolutionary left and international volunteers.
The sending of foreign volunteers was part of the massive solidarity campaigns that the Left, especially the Communists, was organising throughout the world. For those who defended the revolutionary nature of the Spanish war - anarchists and revolutionary socialists - the most important act of solidarity was to fight for the revolution in their country of origin. However, there were volunteers from all revolutionary tendencies present in Spain, although their level of organisation could never match the Communists’.
The powerful anarcho-syndicalist movement in Spain, the CNT, had an ambiguous attitude towards the question of foreign volunteers. In September 1936, the anarchist leader, Diego Abad de Santillán publicly stated that the revolution needed not foreigners but arms, and gave orders to CNT militia guarding the frontier to stop any more foreign volunteers entering the country. Likewise, Durruti argued that solidarity work in France was more important than coming to Spain to fight. However, Abad de Santillán’s orders seem to have had little effect and later the CNT press would praise the heroism of the IBs during the battle of Belchite. Despite the apparent lack of interest in getting foreign volunteers for its militias, some 2,000 foreign anarchists fought with the CNT, including about 500 Italians, 250 French and 230 Germans. In contrast to the CI, the anarchist International, the IWA, had no centralised recruitment campaign. Apart from refugees already living in Spain, the small French anarchist movement organised the sending of volunteers. Problems arose when in early 1937 the militias were militarised and integrated into the Popular Army which would not accept the existence of separate foreign units outside the IBs. As a result some of these anarchist volunteers left the country, others joined CNT-led units in the new army and a few joined the IBs.[xv]
Unlike the CNT, the POUM openly favoured the sending of foreign volunteers while at the same time defending the need to spread the revolution. As soon as the war started, the POUM appealed for international working class solidarity with the revolution, including the sending of aid and volunteers. This call was taken up by the International Bureau for Revolutionary Socialist Unity which grouped together various left socialist and dissident Communist organisations. Like the anarchists, the various small parties that made up the International Bureau were not in a position to send forces comparable to the IBs. Of the nine to ten thousand militia organised by the POUM prior to its suppression in June 1937, up to 700 were foreign volunteers, from at least 25 different countries. Most of these fighters were political refugees, some already resident in Spain. About half were German and there were also significant groups of French and Italians. The British Independent Labour Party had a contingent of 30 on the Huesca front with the POUM forces after January 1937, including George Orwell. Among the foreign volunteers were some of the few militiamen with any previous military experience so they played an important role in the POUM’s Lenin Division, both as officers and commissars. Two-thirds of the Division’s crack Shock Battalion were foreigners, mostly Germans. Politically the international volunteers in the POUM militia were fairly heterogeneous, reflecting in many ways the party’s own political diversity and ranged from the centrist SAP and ILP through to a few Trotskyists and other revolutionaries. When the Lenin (29th) Division was dissolved in June 1937, many of the foreign volunteers had to flee the country to avoid arrest. Some were imprisoned but at least a few of the Germans were allowed into the IBs.[xvi]
Neither did the Trotskyists oppose sending volunteers to fight in Spain, although their aim was quite clearly to intervene politically in the revolution. In early August 1936, an agreement was reached between Jean Rous, the Trotskyist International Secretariat representative in Barcelona, and the POUM for foreign Trotskyists to join the party’s militia. This led to the formation of the first exclusively international unit in the Republican zone, the International Lenin Column. The majority of its fifty fighters were Trotskyists or members of the Italian ultra-leftist Bordigist faction. But in late October the Column dissolved itself after the Bordigists refused to return to the front because the POUM had published the government’s militarization decree in its press. The Trotskyists did not follow the Bordigists in abandoning the country altogether; they mostly left the POUM militia to work in the rearguard or joined CNT units where they felt more useful political work could be carried out. The disbanding of the International Lenin Column coincided with the breakdown in relations between the POUM and various foreign Trotskyists working with them once the latter began to attack the POUM over its decision to participate in the Catalan government.
The military role of the International Brigades.
The significance of the IBs’ intervention in the Civil War becomes clearer when the relatively small number of troops involved, their lack of military experience or sufficient training, the specific logistical problems involved in organising such a multinational force and the failings of their commanders are taken into account. Their role as shock troops, thrown into the most vulnerable parts of the front line, meant their losses were much higher than most other units’. Their reliability in combat had as much to do with their political commitment as with military efficiency. Until the spring of 1937 at least, the IBs were a key element of the Republican forces, superior to the first Popular Army units.[xvii] As one historian put it, although “it would be excessive to say that the presence (of the IBs) was decisive.., they fought with so much faith, the psychological effect was considerable in a conflict in which symbolic values played a great role.”[xviii] Even after the Popular Army had become more effective, the IBs still played an active part in nearly all the remaining battles of the war. [AD1]
Numerically, the IBs were fairly insignificant compared with the overall size of the Republican Army which consisted of 450,000 men by early 1938. Most histories speak of there having been 40,000 or more IBers, but more recent research shows that this figure was much more likely to have been less than 30,000, of which only 18,000 were ever present at any one time, this includes several hundred men and women who served in the Brigades’ medical services and as drivers. Moreover, only a minority of the IBs were ready for combat and even less were at the front. André Marty reported to the CI in March 1937 that the IB had 18,000 men, of which only half were ready for combat. By July 1937 22,000 men had passed through the Brigades ranks, of which 7,000 had been casualties, 4,500 of those fatal, and there were less than 8,000 at the front. The arrival of new recruits over the summer of 1937, brought the total present since October 1936 to 24,464.[xix] Levels of recruitment subsequently declined and never compensated for the constant stream of losses.
The majority of volunteers had no military experience. This lack of combat experience was hardly surprising given that it was nearly 20 years since the First World War and was only compensated for by the volunteers’ participation in street fighting and, above all, by their political commitment. Of the British contingent around 30% claimed to be ex-servicemen, although one combatant, Jason Gurney, reckoned that “more than 80% had never held a loaded weapon in their hands before”. The importance of their political commitment becomes apparent when one considers that at least at first, the training given to the IBers was very inadequate. At first, the British volunteers were only shown how to advance over open country, not how to fortify a position and hold it or how to beat an organised retreat - with disastrous consequences on their first day in action. Likewise, the first American volunteers had “no more than a few days training” before being sent to fight. In fact they had no firing practice at all until, on their way to the front, they were allowed to get out of their lorries and fire a few rounds into the surrounding hills before continuing on to their bloody initiation into the horrors of war.[xx]
Like the rest of the Republican forces, the IBs initially suffered not only from a shortage of arms but above all from the problems created by using different types of weapons and ammunition. It was not just arms that were lacking. When the American volunteers arrived at the Jarama front and were told to dig in, they discovered they had nothing to dig with. However, this would soon change with the steady arrival of new Soviet weapons and the IBs “despite deficiencies” were the “best supplied in the Republican Army”. As Walter Gregory remembered, “our rifles ..were Soviet-made and were identical to those used by the Red Army. They were brand-new and were distributed straight from the packing cases in which they had come.. a very good weapon”. The contrast with Orwell’s description of the antiquated rifles available to the POUM militia on the Aragon front could not have been starker.[xxi]
Another problem faced by such a multinational force was that of communication, especially at the front when orders often had to be given rapidly over the phone. Volunteers were organised by language group in an attempt to overcome this problem, but inevitably this was only a partial solution. There was no attempt to teach the IBers Spanish until early 1937 and few seem to have actually learnt it. The most commonly heard languages were French and German, given the predominance of volunteers who spoke these two languages. Among the General Staff, reflecting the Soviet citizenship of many of its components, Russian was common.
The high casualty rate suffered by the IBs was mainly due to their role as shock troops. However, military inefficiency, common enough in most armies, and in this case often directly for political rerasons, was also part of the cause.[xxii] An estimated third of all international volunteers were killed and the majority of the rest wounded. According to one estimate, only 7% of the IBs left Spain unscathed. The death rate among different national groups appears to have differed in relation to how they were treated, either with excessive confidence by the General Staff or due to their origin. Those who were refugees from authoritarian regimes appear to have been considered both more expendable and more reliable. So while the fatal casualty rate of American, British and French combatants was around 30%, still extremely high, 40% of Germans were killed, along with 48% of Yugoslavs and 42% of Hungarians. The exception were the Italians, of whom “only” 18% died.[xxiii]
The first intervention of the IBs, in the siege of Madrid on 8 November 1936, would become legendary. The first Brigade to arrive was the XI with 1,700 men, mainly Germans, French, Belgians and Poles, followed by the XII four days later with another 1,550. The CNT press in the capital reported their arrival in the early hours of the morning “in silent and damp streets: Marching firmly, their footsteps echoing on the cobblestones.. singing revolutionary songs in French, German, Italian... The people ran out to cheer them.,” convinced these strangely uniformed men had been sent by Russia and “if their powerful ally Russia.. intervened on their side anything was possible... the cry rang out from many a balcony - Long live the Russians !”. After two days of combat half the XI were dead. A few days later the XII was thrown into the battle, also sustaining heavy losses in the desperate room by room fighting on the University campus. The IB did not save Madrid, as was subsequently made out by the Communists, for the militia and population had checked the main fascist advance the day before, but their bravery and example proved an important morale booster for the beleaguered Republican forces. A myth of invincibility was now built up around Kleber but, jealous of his popularity, the Communist Party had him removed from Madrid. In the summer of 1937, he was recalled to Moscow where he disappeared.[xxiv]
In early 1937, the IBs were boosted by the arrival of more volunteers, including the first contingents sent from Britain and the USA. A few weeks later, the IBs played a small but important role in the Republic’s major offensive at Jarama, plugging gaps in the front lines at key moments and once more showing outstanding courage. It was a baptism of fire for the American volunteers who were thrown straight into battle with very little preparation and suffered heavy losses; of 450 men, 120 were killed and 170 wounded. The British Battalion was also reduced to half its number in the first day’s fighting at Jarama.[xxv] The IBs participation at Guadalajara in March would prove even more decisive. This battle was particularly significant, apart from being one of the Republic’s few outright victories in the war, because of Mussolini’s insistence that the Italian fascist forces should be allowed to play a leading part in the fascist offensive and thus show their military superiority. According to the Italian Fascist Grand Council their victory would mark the “end of all Bolshevik plans in the West and the beginning of a new era of power and social justice for the Spanish people”.[xxvi] Instead the battle turned into an humiliating defeat for the Italian High Command. At the height of the fighting Italian anti-Fascists clashed with Mussolini’s troops. The IBs brought up huge loudspeakers to broadcast revolutionary songs and appeals in Italian to the fascist soldiers to lay down their arms. Leaflets, guaranteeing safe conduct to any Italian soldiers who deserted and joined their working class brothers, were dropped from planes and thrown across the lines wrapped around stones. The eventual surrender of hundreds of demoralised Italian fascist troops was of great emotional and political significance for the Italian anti-fascist exiles.
Guadalajara marked a watershed in the IBs’ intervention in the Civil War. From now on the Brigades practically ceased to be mentioned in the Republican press at all. Gone were the headlines about the glorious International Brigades which had saved Madrid and stemmed the fascist tide at Jarama. There were several reasons for this change. In part it reflected the desperate attempts of the Popular Front government to win support from the Western democracies by playing down as far as possible foreign involvement on the Republican side, especially after the decision by the Non-Intervention Committee in February 1937 to prohibit all recruitment for Spain. It was also the logical consequence of the Popular Front political argument that increasingly emphasised the “national” element of the Republic’s struggle against the foreign fascist aggressor aided by a small clique of traitorous Spanish generals. By 1938, this patriotic stance had led to the war being described as one for “national independence” with continued parallels made with the War of Independence against the French at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In such a war the participation of an internationalist and Communist-led force such as the IBs had to be played down if not totally hidden. The growing efficiency of the Republic’s new Popular Army also meant that the IBs’ role was less noticeable. Few IBers seem to have been aware of their changing role. The significance of their lack of awareness of how they were perceived officially by the Republican authorities is one of the more glaring examples of their isolation from the political reality of the country; something which would prove very useful in sustaining the Popular Front view of what the war was really about.[xxvii]
Another serious problem for the IBs was the dropping off of recruitment. Between April and September 1937, 6,464 new recruits arrived in Albacete, compared with 18,000 during the first six months of the IBs’ existence.[xxviii] The Non-Intervention Committee’s determination to stop all foreign recruitment was central to this drop in the number of fresh volunteers. News of the terrible casualties in the IBs’ first engagements also deterred would-be volunteers. The outbreak of internecine fighting in the Republican zone in May 1937 and the growing evidence of Stalinist repression contributed to undermining the appeal of the IBs to non-Communist volunteers. From now on, the IBs were increasingly be boosted by Spanish conscripts, who eventually made up the majority of the Brigades’ troops. A new CI campaign for volunteers in September did not stem this downward trend. By July 1938, the integration of Spanish conscripts into the IBs was such that of their 40,149 troops, only 14,175 were foreigners. But, despite growing demoralisation, falling recruitment and political relegation, they participated, with terrible losses, in all the remaining major engagements of the war. The relative importance of the IBs to the Republican war effort was well illustrated at Teruel when they were brought into the front line once the Fascists began to break through in January 1938, despite the Republican Minister of War’s declared intention of using only local troops in this latest offensive, in an attempt to prove the patriotic nature of his Government’s struggle.
Revolution and counter-revolution.
Although the IBs as such did not intervene directly in the suppression of the revolution, British volunteers arriving in Barcelona in May 1937 were asked whether they would be prepared to participate in the street fighting on the side of government forces, if the situation got worse.[xxix] Foreign members of various security services, usually NKVD agents, were active both inside the IBs and in the rearguard against the revolutionary left. The German Communist Party, the KPD, had its own secret intelligence agency inside the IBs, which collected information on Nazi spies and revolutionaries alike and during the May fighting was involved in arresting German anarchists. Other CI cadres, some members of the IBs, were involved with the Communist-run “State Information Group” which was used against foreign dissidents, as well as local anarchists and “Trotskyists”.[xxx]
From the IBers’ own memoirs it is clear how little they understood what was really happening in Spain. This was due both to the overwhelming influence of the Communists and the isolation of most of them from the rest of the population, be it as a result of language problems, the length of time spent at the front or a deliberate policy.[xxxi] The situation which Walter Gregory found himself in was typical of many others; “looking back.. it is astonishing how little I knew of Spain. I did not appreciate its form of government at all and was content simply to label it as ‘democratic’ .. (I had) no real knowledge of (the) groups which were engaged in the struggle for power”.[xxxii] Few IBers would have had any alternative source of information about divisions inside the world Communist movement or anything approaching the truth about the purges then taking place in the USSR. In the heat of battle, most foreign volunteers readily accepted that any criticism of the Popular Front was playing into the hands of fascism.
The IB press, like its Communist counterpart at this time, slavishly followed the line from Moscow that Trotsky and his followers were fascist agents, and all dissident voices, real or imagined, inside the Communist movement were “Trotskyists”. In the Spanish context the increasingly hysterical attacks on the “Trotsky-fascist POUM” by early 1937 were preparing the ground for a more decisive offensive against this party and the revolution in general. The leadership of the IBs clearly understood the political aspect of their intervention on certain fronts. When Kleber was sent to participate in the offensive on Zaragoza, he reported to the CI that these operations gave the Communist Party “the chance to finish with anarcho-trotskyist-fascist domination in Aragon”.[xxxiii] The IB newspaper claimed in February 1937 that after the Moscow trial “the whole world can see” that the Trotskyists were “agents of German-Japanese fascism.... an incredible system of provocations, sabotage and murder” and in Spain, they had been revealed as “the artificial mist that hid Franco’s Fifth Column”. The “unmasking of the Trotskyists” united all IBers.[xxxiv]
When the fighting broke out in Barcelona in May 1937 it was a time of general demoralisation at the front and the IB leadership had little difficulty in convincing most volunteers that it was the work of Franco’s agents. What happened inside the Lincoln Battalion was probably representative of other units. Robert Minor, the US representative of the CI, addressed the Battalion for two hours on how the Trotskyists were really in the pay of the Fascists. Edwin Rolfe wrote home, “if you were here you would understand why it isn’t enough to be passively bitter or politically opposed to these bastards.. Their stinking pro-fascist actions here should convince anyone who really is for the workers that they’re fit only to be spat on, crushed”.[xxxv] Of those IBers involved more directly in the repression, not all remained loyal to Stalin. Hubert von Ranke, part of the KPD’s security operation in Spain, fled to Paris in November 1937, broke with the party and announced that the people he had helped repress in Barcelona “were not agents of Franco but honest revolutionaries”.[xxxvi]
The virulent anti-Trotskyism of the IB press was the other side of the coin to its passionate defence of the Popular Front. “Collectively, (the IBs) constituted one of the most powerful symbols of the urgent anti-fascist message that the USSR tried to transmit to the western democracies” and with this in mind, “the Communists set about the task of creating myths about the Brigades...”. The very name, “Volunteers for Liberty”, by which the Brigades were known, encapsulated the politics of an anti-fascist alliance that aimed to unite all democrats. The American Communists chose the names of Lincoln and Washington for their Battalions to reflect the democratic, and even patriotic, nature of their struggle, rather than that of the imprisoned labour leader Tom Mooney whose case was considered “too inflammatory”.[xxxvii]
Since the war some former IBers have played an important role in trying to sustain the Popular Front and Stalinist view of events. One Scottish volunteer would still insist forty years later that “the terrible crime of the POUM..” was that it “tried to foster the idea that this was a revolutionary war.. it never had any signs of a revolutionary war.. they were people concerned to expel the Italians and Germans..”, the war was “a revolt against an invasion by foreigners.. sponsored by a handful of generals led by Franco.”[xxxviii] Likewise, the reaction of former IBers to Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom as a “distortion of history”, that “slanders” the IBs by accusing them of being controlled by the Stalinists, is only part of a long and sad history of denunciations of any view that challenges the Popular Front myths about the Civil War. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, on which Loach’s film is loosely based, has been singled out by the last commander of the British Battalion, Bill Alexander, as being “bitterly anti-Republican ... muck and fantasy”.[xxxix]
Despite sustaining this virulent defence of the Popular Front line since the late thirties, many Communists at the time had a more contradictory view of what they were doing. Most rank and file Communists saw themselves as revolutionaries and the Popular Front as a necessary tactical interlude before the implantation of proletarian dictatorship. This belief was encouraged by the relatively recent experience of the October revolution and the widespread conviction, not only among Communists, that the USSR was a socialist state and helps explain the hold of Stalinism over important sectors of the most militant workers in the thirties. The subsequent development of the Communist Parties would see these long-term revolutionary aims become even more abstract, but in the thirties such ideas were still fairly central to the commitment of many of their members.
This contradictory view of their role was clear among the IBers, even taking into account their disciplined defence of the CI position and their limited understanding of the political situation in Spain. Many American volunteers, for instance, “defined their mission in revolutionary terms”. Political Commissar, Sandor Voros, would claim years later that he went to Spain “to fight under the leadership of the Comintern, the giants of the revolution..”, he was part of “the expression of international solidarity forged by the (CI) into an armoured fist of the revolutionary working class”.[xl] Even more significantly, the IBs’ officers and commissars often appealed to their men’s revolutionary consciousness in order to lift morale. Thus Robert Minor addressed the Lincoln Battalion as “the cadres of the international revolution” and Kleber urged the surviving IBers into yet another attack on the Madrid front with a resounding “For the Revolution and liberty - forward !”.[xli]
Repression inside the International Brigades.
Many hostile sources talk of the “reign of terror” which supposedly existed within the IBs, especially at their base in Albacete. Sandor Voros, after he had turned against the Communists, claimed that officers and soldiers of the IBs were “implacably executed following Kremlin orders”. André Marty is singled out in particular as responsible for this repression, and was labelled the “Butcher of Albacete” by right-wing French parliamentary deputies, a name subsequently taken up by embittered former Communists and Ernest Hemingway. What is clear is that Marty was both incompetent as a military leader and obsessed to the point of paranoia about the threat of infiltration by spies and “Trotskyists”. According to the IB Commander-in-Chief, all foreign espionage organisations were at work in the Brigades, “above all the Deuxième Bureau of the French General Staff”. However, it is misleading to put what repression that did take place solely down to the “demented Marty”. [xlii]
The extent of the repression inside the IBs, and Marty’s role in it, is open to debate, but what is clear is the complex security structure which operated inside their ranks. Most of those who had a leading role inside these structures were foreign Communists sent by the CI, usually connected in one way or another to the NKVD and often involved in counter-espionage activities outside the IBs. Apart from the KPD’s own secret service, the first organism used to control foreign volunteers was the PSUC’s Foreigners’ Bureau in Barcelona to which new volunteers in the autumn of 1936 surrendered their passports and which was run by foreign Communists and the NKVD. It was later used to organise expulsions, torture and even the murder of both foreign and Spanish dissidents. It was not long before the IBs had their own security service. In January 1937, Marty reported to the CI that the IBs were setting up a “Control and Security Service” with the collaboration of “two Mexican (Russian) comrades”. One was probably Alexander Orlov, head of the NKVD’s operation in Spain.[xliii]
A “Cadre Commission” was established at Albacete in February which would be main body responsible for surveillance inside the IBs until the creation of the Republican counter-espionage service, the SIM, six months later. Similar cadre commissions had existed in the CPSU since 1922 and inside the CI after 1932 and played a very important role in monitoring party members’ trustworthiness. The Commission’s principal task was to select and promote the best volunteers, as well as unmask any provocateurs. Nearly all the heads of this Commission were experienced CI cadres, had worked in its cadre section in Moscow and usually had studied at Soviet military schools. After a time the most important linguistic groups had their own Commissions. By 1938, the Cadre Commission had 83 collaborators, most of whom were Communists and had previously been at the front. A report on 362 British volunteers, half of them Communists, gives an insight into the Commission’s work. The report describes 31 of them as “cadres”, 142 as being reliable and 133, of which 40 were party members, as “weak or bad”. When the SIM was established inside the IBs, it was made up of mainly foreign Communists and its activities overlapped with the Cadre Commission.[xliv]
Most punitive action inside the IBs, as in most armies, was taken in response to indiscipline and desertion: two “re-education centres” and three jails were established at Albacete to deal with such cases.[xlv] By the spring of 1937 the harsh realities of the war in Spain had become very clear to the volunteers and desertions began to increase. Long inactive stretches in the front lines without leave added to the general demoralisation in the ranks, leading to desertion, insubordination and growing rivalries between national groups. Marty reported to the CI after the battles of Jarama and Guadalajara that the Brigades were on the verge of falling apart such was the level of demoralisation and the loss of men through both casualties and desertion. The change in the situation inside the IBs after Guadalajara is clearly reflected in reports to Moscow, where the same men previously praised for their courage at the front are now described as “cowards, amoral and alcoholics”. One of the more dramatic examples of insubordination took place during the disastrous attack on Brunete in July 1937, when the Polish and Slav units refused to return to the front and discipline was only re-established with the arrival of Assault Guards (Republican police) and tanks. There were also outbreaks of indiscipline and desertion among the British and Americans after Brunete, as there had been at Jarama. By August 1937, according to Marty, “most Battalions were down to less than 200 men, volunteers were tired and there were “constant desertions.. especially among the French and English”. In October, Marty accused the commander of the French-Belgian Brigade of “organising mass desertions” after half the men in two battalions had abandoned their units in three weeks.[xlvi]
Given the terrible conditions in which the IBs fought, the number of desertions was not that great, a further reflection of the deep political commitment of the majority of the volunteers. An estimated 298 British volunteers deserted (16%), compared with about 100 Americans (3.5%), who would not have found it so easy to return home. The fate of captured deserters appears to have been mixed. They were usually held in penal battalions, often set to work digging trenches, and eventually released, but, according to Jason Gurney, “a large number disappeared without trace”. Apart from desertion and insubordination, in the town of Albacete there were numerous cases brought before the local courts of public disorder and even homicide, involving IBers. [xlvii]
Reprisals for political dissent were less common than punishment for indiscipline, but have attracted more attention, if only due to Marty’s obsession with unmasking spies and Trotskyists. In October 1937, Marty complained to Moscow of “foreign centres” especially Lyon, Paris and Nice from where the “infiltration of provocateurs” was organised with the recruitment of “alcoholics, Trotskyists and anarchists”. In this atmosphere, with the daily attacks on Trotskyists, real and otherwise, in the IB and Communist press as fascist agents, not surprisingly any dissident was quickly denounced as a “Trotskyist” and often arrested. The CI Executive Committee in September 1937 exhorted all officers and men of the IBs to fight against “Trotskyist-fascist” infiltration. There were very few real Trotskyists in the IBs. One was the Brazilian officer, August Besought, who was murdered by the NKVD. The Danish Trotskyist, Aage Kielso, fought with the IBs on the Madrid and Cordoba fronts. Those few anarchists, such as twenty Germans, who enlisted in the IBs were “strictly controlled by the SIM”.[xlviii]
The exact number of IBers executed is hard to ascertain. One sympathetic history says there were around 50 executions, giving details of 25 of these. The true figure was probably higher.[xlix] At Albacete, there was a “legal commission”, really a Council of War, which handed out death penalties. The condemned men were usually accused of cowardice or of being spies, provocateurs or Trotskyists. What does seem clear is that the punishment meted out to volunteers differed depending on nationality. Marty was particularly critical of the Belgians and French, who as a consequence were often among those arrested. He described the Belgians as “the initiators of break-down and mass desertion” and the majority of both Belgian and French officers as “provocateurs” and former members of the Foreign Legion. Volunteers who were political exiles from authoritarian regimes also seem to have suffered disproportionately, especially those that had come directly from Moscow, as there would be no redress from prying governments. Various IB cadre would be executed upon returning to Moscow, as happened with some of the Soviet military advisors. One of the more dramatic examples of repression was that of nine Germans shot during the battle of Teruel for having tried to incite their comrades to disobey orders. In contrast, the American and British came off lightly. Among the American volunteers there are only three known cases of executions and the British only one, and even this case is disputed.[l]
The effects of this repressive atmosphere, combined with military inefficiency, undermined morale even further, especially among the non-Communist volunteers. According to Gurney, the “pattern of unkept promises of support, chaotic orders and communications, followed by inquests, the finding of scapegoats and their execution as enemy agents was to underlie the whole course of events..” Or as one American volunteer recalled, “it was one of the most poignant and tragic experiences of the men who volunteered for the IBs, to find out that they could be as greatly defeated by the remote control of the Kremlin as by the Non-Intervention Pact”.[li]
The end of the Brigades.
By June 1938, the Soviet government was considering abandoning the Republic, both because of its failure to establish an anti-Hitler alliance with the democracies and because a Fascist victory looked increasingly inevitable. About this time the Soviet Foreign Minister Litvinov told the British ambassador that a Franco regime was acceptable provided it did not become a German or Italian satellite.[lii] The Soviet representative on the Non-Intervention Committee agreed to the drawing up of a plan for the withdrawal of all foreign combatants in Spain and the granting of belligerent rights to both sides - allowing them to buy arms legally. The proposed plan for withdrawal included the far greater forces fighting on Franco’s side. However, given the complete cynicism with which the fascist powers had treated the Non-Intervention Committee since its formation, few could have seriously thought that they would carry out their side of any agreement.
On 21 September, in a last desperate attempt to win the support of the democracies, the President of the Republic, Juan Negrín announced at the League of Nations, while the decisive battle of the Ebro was still being fought, his government’s unilateral decision to withdraw all foreign combatants from the Republican zone. Of the 12,673 foreign volunteers left in the Republican Army, 7,000 fought in the Ebro offensive - 75% of them becoming casualties.[liii] The Republican side now lost a small, but important, minority of experienced fighters. The positions handed over by the IBs were soon lost and by 18 November, the Republicans held no point on the southern bank of the Ebro.
The actual evacuation of the IBers was not easy and by January only 4,640 had left. About 6,000 volunteers remained demobilised in Catalonia. As the region fell, the Communist Party called on the remaining IBers to re-enlist. Eighty percent did so, fighting in the desperate rearguard actions as the Republican forces and hundreds of thousands of refugees fled towards the border. On 9 February the IBers were among the last Republican troops to cross the border.[liv] On 24 February, France recognised the Franco government and three days later Britain did the same.
The story of the IBs does not finish with the end of the Civil War. Their odyssey would continue in the prison camps of Franco’s Spain and Nazi Germany, in the forefront of the anti-fascist resistance and in the allied armed forces. Others would perish in the Stalinist purges in the USSR or the post-war regimes of Eastern Europe - the very fact they had been in Spain made them a threat. A few would escape the purges to become political and military leaders in the new Soviet block. In the West, they would also be persecuted, particularly in the USA where they were accused of being “premature anti-fascists”; others would end up in the leadership of the trade unions or as political leaders of the Left. Some would turn against their past and became right-wing anti-communists or, in a few cases, join revolutionary groups.
The legacy of the International Brigades.
The legacy of the IBs is contradictory. Their intervention in the Civil War not only aided directly the Republic in its fight against fascism but also boosted the credibility of the Communist Parties. As one British historian wrote, “the unquestioned bravery and sincerity of these men did much to enhance the reputation of the Communist Party among those members of the Battalion who held other views and at the same time had a great propaganda value in Britain itself... As the civil War progressed the idealism and heroism of the Battalion had an ever greater impact on the Labour Movement, with the resulting rapid increase in the membership and influence of the Communist Party”.[lv] In particular, this prestige was used to justify the Stalinist Popular Front strategy. The class collaboration and reformism enshrined in this strategy has been a hallmark of Communist Party politics ever since.
For revolutionaries, the question arose of whether their foremost task should have been to stay and fight for social change in their own countries as the most effective way of supporting Spanish workers. Although this was arguably the case, there were many reasons why volunteers were needed in Spain. At a practical level, there were German and Italian exiles who were unable to be politically active in their own countries. More importantly, the workers’ organisations in Spain, with the exception of some sectors of the anarchists, wanted volunteers to come and fight. The real problem was the political context in which the IBs intervened. The participation of international volunteers on the side of the Republic was only really openly used to bolster morale during the first months they were present, after which they virtually disappeared from public view so as not to alarm the democracies too much and above all to reinforce the propaganda that this was a war for “national independence” against foreign (Italian and German) invaders. If the volunteers had returned to their countries to explain the revolutionary nature of the Spanish war, their role in their respective labour movements would have been very different.
Despite the obvious weaknesses of the IBs’ politics, for the Left today they remain one of the most impressive and heroic examples of working class internationalism and anti-fascism. As American volunteer and life-long Communist, Alvah Bessie wrote, “In the history of the world there had never existed a group of men like this.. an international army formed .... by volunteers from all walks of life. The actual existence of this army ... was a guarantee of the brotherhood of the international working class, the definitive proof that (the workers) have a common interest and obligation”.[lvi] This internationalism could not have contrasted more strongly with the treacherous policies of the bourgeois democracies and their political supporters, both Left and Right, who preferred the Republic to fall rather than themselves make a stand against fascism. Despite being relatively few in number, the IBs played a relatively important role as shock troops. Their political commitment and revolutionary consciousness, despite the treacherous role of their Stalinist leaders, were central to their effectiveness and for this they paid a heavy price. The fact that many IBers were later persecuted by democratic governments, Nazism and Stalinism alike, is the clearest testimony to the example they provide to anyone who seeks to rid the world of injustice.
I am indebted to Mike Eaude for his valuable comments on the text.
CIBI: Colloque international sur les Brigades Internationales, Lausanne, 18-20 December, 1997.
[i] This a slightly modified version of the same article that originally appeared in International Socialism nº84, London, Autumn 1999 pp109-132.
[ii] J. Esteban, “Las Brigadas Internacionales y la guerra civil en la literatura”, M. Requena Gallego (ed.) La Guerra Civil Española y Las Brigadas Internacionales (Cuenca, 1998) p133.
[iii] W. Gregory, The Shallow Grave (Nottingham, 1996) p20.
[iv] D. Nelles, “The Foreign Legion of the Revolution. German Anarchosyndicalists and Volunteers in Anarchist Militias during the Spanish Civil War” (CIBI) p12.
[v] M. Alpert, A New International History of the Spanish Civil War (London, 1994) p51.
[vi] See, G. Howson, Arms For Spain (London 1998).
[vii] P. Broué, “L’internationale communiste et les Brigades internationales” (CIBI) p3.
[viii] P. Pagès, “Marty, Vidal, Kleber et le Komintern. Ce que nous apprennent les archives de Moscou” (CIBI) pp5,16; G. G. Baumann, Los voluntarios latinoamericanos en la Guerra Civil Española (San José, 1997) pp212-244; P.N. Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (Stanford, 1994) p19; R. Skoutelsky, “L’engagement des volontaires français en Espagne républicaine” (CIBI) p12.
[ix] Broué op cit pp3-5; Pagès op cit p17; W.G. Krivitsky, I was Stalin’s Agent (Cambridge, 1992) p105.
[x] Hans Beimler cited by G. Regler, The Owl of Minerva (London, 1959)
[xi] Skoutelsky op cit p14.
[xii] According to André Marty, S. Álvarez, Historia política y militar de las Brigadas Internacionales (Madrid 1996) p309; Carroll op cit p65; J. Gotovitch, “Les volontaires de Belgique dans les Brigades. Quelques éléments pour une comparaison” (CIBI) p4; A. Lesnik, “Yugoslav volunteers in the Spanish Civil War” (CIBI) p1.
[xiii] Carroll op cit p18; J.N. McCrorie, “Canadian Volunteers in the International Brigades: Spain 1936-1939” (CIBI) p10; The Volunteer May 1990.
[xiv] T. Buchannan, Britain and the Spanish Civil War (Cambridge 1997) p126; H. Thomas The Spanish Civil War (Harmondsworth, 1971) p382; Skoutelsky op cit p7; Carroll op cit p16.
[xv] A. de Santillan, Por qué perdimos la guerra (Buenos Aires, 1940) p175; Nelles op cit pp7,13; D. Berry, “Contribution to a Collective Biography of the French Anarchist Movement: French Anarchist Volunteers in Spain 1936-39” (CIBI) pp9-10.
[xvi] A. Durgan, “International Volunteers in the POUM militias” (CIBI).
[xvii] G. Cardona, “Las Brigadas Internacionales y el Ejército Popular” in Requena Gallego op cit p76.
[xviii] P. Vilar , La guerra civil española (Barcelona 1986), p.76.
[xix] Pagès op cit pp5, 14-15; C. Vidal, Las Brigadas Internacionales (Madrid 1998) pp532-4 gives figures from a wide range of sources, from 120,00 according to the Fascists to 25,000 in some Stalinist accounts.
[xx] Buchanan op cit p127; J. Gurney, Crusade in Spain (Newton Abbot, 1976) pp76,87; Carroll op cit pp95,100; A. London, Se levantaron antes del alba... (Barcelona, 1978) p86.
[xxi] Carroll op cit p99; Cardona op cit p76; Gregory op cit p29; G. Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (Harmondsworth, 1975) p35.
[xxii] The opinion of former IB commander Vital Gayman (Vidal), cited in Broué op cit pp8-9; also see Vidal op cit pp125-6.
[xxiii] Alvarez op cit pp398-9; Carroll op cit p204; Lesnik op cit p1; I. Harsányi, “Participación de húngaros en las Brigadas Internacionales en retrospectiva histórica” (CIBI) p3; B.H: Bayerlein “Le Komintern, les Brigades Internationales en Espagne et le Parti communiste allemand” (CIBI) p14; Thomas op cit p796.
[xxiv] Ibid p504; Cardona op cit p76.
[xxv] Thomas op cit p491; Gurney op cit p127,152; Buchanan op cit p134.
[xxvi] P. Broué and E.Témime, The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain (London 1972) pp258-9.
[xxvii] Cardona op cit p76; M.Requena Gallego, “Albacete, base de las Brigadas Internacionales 1936-1938”, M. Requena Gallego (ed.) op cit p149.
[xxviii] Pagès op cit p14-15.
[xxix] Hugh Sloan in I.MacDougall (ed), Voices from the Spanish Civil War (Edinburgh, 1986) p199.; William Herrick in his memoirs claims that several American volunteers were sent to the outskirts of Barcelona to take part in the repression, W. Herrick, Jumping the Line (Wisconsin, 1998) p217.
[xxx] Nelles op cit p10; P. Huber, “Surveillance et répression politique dans les Brigades internationales” (CIBI) p2.
[xxxi] Cardona op cit p75; “I lived in Spain some nine months, and had not made friends with one Spaniard. I hardly knew what a Spaniards man or woman thought, except by what I read in the papers”, Herrick op cit p220.
[xxxii] Gregory op cit p19.
[xxxiii] Pagès op cit p21.
[xxxiv] Soldado de la República 16.2.37.
[xxxv] Carroll op cit p83.
[xxxvi] Huber op cit p2.
[xxxvii] G. Esenwein, “El Frente Popular: la política republicana durante la Guerra Civil”, S.Payne and J. Tusell (eds) La Guerrra Civil. Una vision nueva del conflicto que dividió España (Madrid 1996) p369; C. Almuiña Fernández and R.M. Martín de la Guardia, “Prensa y propaganda durante la guerra civil: el mito de las Brigadas Internacionales”, Requena Gallego (ed) op cit p128-129; Carroll op cit p126.
[xxxviii] Tom Murray in MacDougall (ed) op cit p325.
[xxxix] B. Alexander, “Loach’s film distorts history” Morning Star 7.10.95; B. Alexander, “Comments on A Moment of War” 6.11.91 (unpublished); also see B. Alexander, “George Orwell and Spain” in C.Norris (ed) Inside the Myth. Orwell: Views from the Left (London, 1984) pp85-102; Alexander has recently tried to discredit the writer Laurie Lee’s critical account of his limited involvement in the war; while some of Lee’s recollections are questionable, the claim by Alexander that Lee was never even in the Brigades is based on very slim evidence indeed, L. Lee, A Moment of War (London, 1992); Alexander’s opinion can be found in, S. Courtland “A not very Franco account” The Spectator 3.1.98; for a defence of Lee, M. Eaude “Fighter or faker?”, The Guardian 13.5.98.
[xl] Carroll op cit p130; S.Voros, American Commissar (Philadelphia, 1961) p283.
[xli] Carroll op cit p161; Malraux cited in Thomas op cit p332.
[xlii] Voros op cit p410; Broué and Témime op cit p388f.; J.Delperrie de Bayac, Las Brigadas Internacionales (Madrid 1980) pp152-157; Huber op cit pp5,7-9; Gurney op cit p184.
[xliii] Huber op cit pp7-8.
[xliv] Ibid pp5-6; Bayerlein op cit p6; Broué op cit p7; Among the more notorious NKVD agents present in the IBs was the Polish Mickíewicz Battalion Commissar, Léon Narwicz, who would later infiltrate the POUM claiming to be a dissident Russian Red Army officer. Narwicz was later executed by a POUM action squad as a reprisal for the murder of Andreu Nin.
[xlv] Requena Gallego op cit p160; Delperrie de Bayac op cit p157.
[xlvi] Bayerlein op cit pp6,10; Pagès op cit pp5,7,13; Thomas op cit pp591-592; Vidal op cit pp126,274.
[xlvii] B. Alexander, British Volunteer for Liberty. Spain 1936-39 (London, 1982) p81; Carroll op cit p148; Gurney op cit p141; Requena Gallego op cit p160.
[xlviii] Bayerlein op cit p11; Broué op cit p7; A. Guillamón, Documentación histórica del trosquismo español (1936-1948) (Madrid, 1996) p17; Nelles op cit p18.
[xlix] Delperrie de Bayac op cit p145. Hostile accounts, without giving their source, claim that Marty admitted to the PCF Central Committee in November 1937 of having ordered the execution of 500 men, Gurney p144; Vidal pp127,351,367; this information seems to originally have come from Fascist sources, for example, “Comité de Información y Actuación Social” Las Brigadas Internacionales segun testimonio de sus artífices (Barcelona, n.d. 1939/40) p23.
[l] Pagès op cit pp7-8,18; Huber op cit p5; Delperrie de Bayac op cit p151; Alexander, British Volunteers.. op cit pp81-82; Carroll op cit pp187-8; Requena Gallego op cit p159. According to Voros, Germans, Hungarians, Poles and Slavs were the main victims of execution, Voros op cit pp410-411.
[li] Gurney op cit p82; Carroll op cit p239.
[lii] Alpert op cit p148.
[liii] Thomas op cit p.704; Cardona op cit p81; Vidal op cit pp304-5.
[liv] London op cit p302; Delperrie de Bayac op cit pp317-318.
[lv] K. W. Watkins, Britain Divided. The Effect of the Spanish Civil War on British Political Opinion (London, 1963) p176.
[lvi] A. Bessie, Men in Battle (New York, 1939) p343.