Thursday, July 16, 2009

Remember the brutality of fascism

by Robert Laurie

Saturday 4th July saw the International Brigade Memorial Trust hold their annual commemoration of the British volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. In the shadow of the London Eye a number of speakers paid tribute to the volunteers who rallied in defence of democracy in Spain which in 1936 was faced by a revolt by the Spanish army (particularly the Spanish colonial army) backed by Hitler and Mussolini. The British government effectively assisted the fascist rebels by a policy of so called "non-intervention". Two thousand volunteers came from Britain to aid the republican cause, many were communists who fought in the International Brigades while others served in front line medical services.
This year the commemorations had an international flavour with speakers representing the Swedish and German organisations of Spanish Civil War veterans and their supporters. A member of the Veterans for Peace from the United States and a representative of the British Jewish Ex-Servicemen's Association both laid wreaths. Official recognition came in the form of the Spanish ambassador and representatives from the Catalonian regional government.
In June the Spanish Embassy hosted a ceremony at which the surviving British brigaders were awarded Spanish citizenship in recognition of their efforts. At the July ceremony The Ambassador admitted it was long overdue. One of the veterans honoured, Sam Russell, recalled earlier visits to the Embassy where he protested against executions carried out throughout the Franco years. He stressed it is important to remember that the brutality of the regime, which included executions of republicans by garrotting carried out until his death in 1975.
Tributes were also paid to three recently deceased veterans including Jack Jones, the TGWU leader who served as IBMT president.

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