THE SPANISH war against the Franco fascist invasion began in July 1936 and in October of that year the International Brigades were formally constituted.
More than 40,000 volunteers from all around the world set out for Spain to try to defend the left-wing Republican government from the fascist invasion.
Many faced strong opposition from their own governments. Britain and the United States formally adopted a neutral position, whilst fascist Italy and Nazi Germany openly supported Franco with aid, weapons and troops, and were using Spain as a rehearsal for their later attempt to take on the world.
The International Brigade Association in Britain staged a week-long festival, in conjunction with the Marx Memorial Library, which culminated on Sunday 30th October with excerpts from a play, Dare Devil rides to Jarama by Townsend Productions and Unite the Union about Clem Beckett, and the unveiling of a plaque by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.
The well-produced play told of the life and death of Clem Beckett, a member of the Young Communist League (YCL) in the 1930s, who made a name for himself throughout Europe as a motorcycle speedway rider and dare devil stuntman on the first versions of the “wall of death”.
In 1936 he was amongst the first to volunteer to go to Spain and died in the battle of Jarama.
After the play Emily Thornberry unveiled a plaque naming the 90 men of the British Battalion who were killed in the Battle of the Ebro in the summer of 1938.
The heavy steel plaque was first unveiled on the Ebro battlefield in 2005 by International Brigade veterans Bob Doyle, Jack Jones, Sam Lesser and Alan Menai Williams. It was smashed to pieces, using power cutting tools, two years later by Spanish neo-fascists.
A replacement was soon installed but the original plaque, though damaged, now has pride of place in the tiny Marx Memorial Garden in Clerkenwell.
The Marx Memorial Library houses the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT) archives and hosts the office of the IBMT.