July 2016 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. The Miners’ Library has a varied collection on the conflict in which Welshmen (many of whom were miners) joined the International Brigade in Spain to fight with the People’s Republic against Franco and his Nationalists. As well as the soldiers, Welsh medical personnel volunteered to treat the wounded, while communities at home campaigned politically, organised aid and welcomed refugees.
The majority of our pamphlets contain articles, narratives and accounts from those supporting the Republic, both from within Spain and internationally. Many left-wing organisations published anti-nationalist tracts, such as the Communist Party of Great Britain, (Spain Fights for Victory, Spain and the T.U.C.), the London Trades Council (The Truth Behind the Spanish Rebellion) and the National Council of Labour (What Spain is Fighting For). These critique anti-republic propaganda, the influence of other fascist states and non-interventionist policies implemented by other European countries. The story of Thora Silverthorne is also included in our collection as part of an article in Nursing Times . Thora worked at a field hospital during the War, returning home to organise the nursing trade union, The Association of Nurses, in 1937.
What is Happening in Spain? is an account by Fernando de los Rios, then Professor of Political Law/ Rector at the University of Madrid and Spanish Ambassador to the United States of America. He attacks many of the dominant assumptions surrounding the War, particularly the idea that the rebels are fighting on behalf of Catholicism.
Narratives from the Nationalist side of the War offer an alternative perspective on events, allowing insights into the motives and ideologies of those fighting for fascism. I Was a Franco Soldier is an autobiographical account by Seumas MacKee, an Irishman who fought for O’Duffy’s ‘Irish Brigade’, on the side of Franco. The pamphlet recounts his growing disillusionment with the politics and rhetoric of nationalism. The author of Memoirs of a Spanish Nationalist, Antonio Bahamonde, was the chief Propaganda Officer to General Queipo de Llano. His governmental position is an excellent vantage point from which to record the nationalist perception of events and critique their propaganda.
Historical analyses of the War form a bulk of our pamphlet collection, specifically those focusing on responses by the industrial communities of South Wales. Hywel Francis has written a number of articles which offer insightful research on this subject, including Rhondda and the Spanish Civil War: A Study in International Working-Class Solidarity and Welsh Miners and the Spanish Civil War. [We also hold several copies of Dr. Francis’s book on the Spanish Civil War, Miners Against Fascism, in our main collection].
Pamphlets produced after the war demonstrate that, though overshadowed by the global conflict a few years later, its significance and consequences continued to reverberate. Pamphlets on Franco’s post-war regime, such as Youth Against Franco and Murder in Madrid, highlight the continued suppression of dissident politics. Murder in Madrid is an account of communist Julian Grimau’s violent death at the hands of Franco’s regime. It offers a concise account of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, as well as passionately advocating for the end of Franco’s dictatorship. Several of our pamphlets also reflect the subsequent desire by communities to memorialise their lost soldiers. There are pamphlets from Ammanford, Neath, Swansea and Cardiff documenting the unveiling of stones or plaques for the fallen International Brigade soldiers. In the latter decades of the twentieth century, when many of the surviving soldiers had passed away, memorials such as these serve to commemorate the conflict and ensure the personal and political losses are not forgotten.
Our pamphlet collection highlights the diverse range of responses that the Spanish Civil War provoked, including personal narratives, political and economic reports and retrospective analyses. They demonstrate that many communities in Britain (particularly communist, socialist and other left-wing organisations) were galvanised by the War and the propagation of their literature– both during and after the conflict – reflects an international desire to be informed of and engaged with the implications and repercussions of the conflict. In an era before modern means of global communication, the pamphlets functioned as weapons that could be used by communities, organisations and institutions in order to project their narratives and gather support.