The Titanic Struggle Between Democracy and Fascism

The Spanish Civil War was a bitter struggle for many Spaniards. People torn between competing sides and deep rooted ideologies. Families, companies and cities split by divisive loyalties in a fight for control of Spain. A terrible conflict in a century ravaged by war. But there is also another side to the story, a perspective most famously presented in George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. The story of the International Brigades.

Over 35,000 men and women, originating from around 53 countries, left their countries and volunteered to fight in the brigades as part of the Republican army. These volunteers came from overwhelmingly working class backgrounds with many involved in industrial occupations, such as mining, labouring and construction. A significant number were also active in the trade union movement and estimates vary but around of 80% were members of the Communist Party.

Upon arrival in Spain these  international volunteers were drafted into fighting brigades. For them the war was a struggle of democracy against the international fascism. A struggle that had already been raging across Europe for over a decade.

The Only Memorial in Madrid to the International Brigades

The only memorial in Madrid to those who fought in the International Brigades stands in gardens of the campus of Complutense University. It was paid for by public subscription and erected on 22nd of October 2011. Barely three metres tall and topped by the three-pointed star of the brigades. The monument is inscribed in Spanish with the words of Dolores Ibárruri.

You are history; you are legend; you are an heroic example of solidarity and of the universal democracy.


Party Political or Deep Rooted Hatred

Soon after the monument was erected it was vandalised and covered with graffiti tags and the word murderers. Even now, over four decades after the death of Franco, Spain is still a politically polarised country, Many attempts to recognise the history of leftist movements in Spain are met by opposition by certain sections of the ruling establishment. Ironically the monument is just down the road from a colossal victory arch built during the 36-year dictatorship of Franco.

The monument has recently been in the news because a complaint was lodged by a lawyer, Miguel García, who is known to have far-right leanings. He has found an irregularity with the planning permission and has taken the case to the Supreme Court of Madrid. The hope is that the monument will be torn down and the events forgotten. Time will tell how it all ends. Legal rulings aside for now, you can pop on down and pay your respects anytime.

[one_half]Opening Hours: Open all hours[/one_half][one_half_last]Address: Av. Complutense, 1, 28040 Madrid[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Price: Free[/one_half][one_half_last]Website: n/a[/one_half_last]

Photo credit: Photo 1 and 2 by Andy