ANTI-FASCISTS in Spain, organised by the AABI International Brigades Friendship group, known as the Amigos, are fighting a major political battle to defend the existence of the memorial in Madrid’s University City to those who died fighting with the International Brigades.
And last Saturday a young Spanish campaigner made an impassioned plea for support from members and supporters of the International Brigade Memorial Trust in London at its annual memorial event in Jubilee gardens last Saturday.
She called on the crowd – several hundred strong – to support a petition to save the memorial.
Madrid’s Complutense University has been ordered to remove the memorial that was unveiled on 22nd October 2011 in the presence of four International Brigade veterans, including David Lomon from Britain.
The order was made on 3rd June 2013 by a Madrid court, the Tribunal Superior de Justicia, on the grounds that the monument had been erected by the university without planning permission. The university is reported to be insisting that it applied for the permission but did not receive a reply from the city council.
But the call for its removal came from Spanish fascists, who still exert a powerful influence in that country.
The IBMT donated €500 towards the cost of the memorial. Several other International Brigade associations also contributed to the financial appeal launched by the AABI, as did the Madrid embassies of Argentina, Canada, Cyprus, Norway, Russia, Serbia and Slovenia.
The court’s decision was greeted with dismay by the AABI activists, who noted that, although the ruling was made on technical grounds, the original complaint was lodged by a lawyer with known far-right connections. They also point out that Franco's Arco de la Victoria (Victory Arch) still stands at the entrance to the University City.
In a letter to the Spanish ambassador in London, Frederico Trillo, IBMT Secretary Jim Jump said the decision would be interpreted by many people as evidence that there were institutions in Spain that had still not come to terms with the country’s recent history.
“For a Spanish court to be seen to be acting in a way that denigrates the memory of those who fought in Spain against European fascism and on the side of a democratic government is highly damaging to the image of Spain in the outside world,” he added.
The petition form, which can be reached on http://www.change.org/es/peticiones/paremos-la-retirada-del-monumento-a-las-brigadas-internacionales-de-la-ucm>?, is hosted by @change.org . It is in Spanish but this can be changed by scrolling down to the foot of the page and
There ceremony last Saturday was very poignant – since the previous year’s event the last two survivors living in England – David Lomon and Lou Kenton – had died, as had Mike Jones, son of brigader and trade union leader Jack Jones.
And one of the leading initiators and organisers of the IBMT – who also happens to have been the New Communist Party’s own much loved and respected Dolly Shaer – had also died just five days before the event. Jim Jump read out a moving tribute to her and her work for the IBMT.
Other speakers included Rodney Bickerstaffe, Bob Whelan of the train drivers’ union Aslef and the sons of Lou Kenton and David Lomon.
Wreathes were laid at the memorial by representatives of many organisations and trade unions.
Music was provided by a choir from Catalonia and from folk singer Grace Petrie, who led the crowd in singing the Brigaders’ song Jarama. She also played a couple of her own compositions, upbeat and loud: “I still have faith in the common man, who is doing what he can…”
The ceremony finished with the mass singing of the Internationale.