Origins and Lessons of the Spanish Civil War

Historian and author Harry Owens, will address the topic “Origins and Lessons of the Spanish Civil War” at the Maldron Hotel on Friday 4th August at 2.45.

Spain 1937

Anarchist militia from the National Confederation of Labour wave their flags and rifles for the camera in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. ca. 1937 Barcelona, Spain

The Spanish Civil War was one of the most significant events of the 20th century and became a frightening prelude to World War 2. While it was fundamentally a war between the Spanish people, it was really a battle between the establishment and the workers and peasants, between the forces of conservatism and those seeking progress. Massive foreign intervention ensured a bloody conflict, which resulted in a total defeat for the democratically elected government and its supporters, and consigned Spain and her people to almost 40 years of rule by a fascist government.

Looking at some figures to gauge the extent of the war, Andy Durgan in his book “The Spanish Civil War” (Palgrave Macmillan 2007 Studies in European History) estimates that around 350,000 people died during the period 1936-1939 and its aftermath, out of a population of 25 million.

barricade

Republican forces barricade

He concludes that about 100,000 people were executed by Franco’s Nationalists during the war itself and more than 20,000 soon afterwards. Hundreds of thousands were condemned to prison and exile, ostracism or poverty as Franco consolidated his power and as hunger and terror became official policy and many more died. Others estimate that 150,000 republican supporters  were summarily executed, and lie in unmarked mass graves all over Spain today, in what is now accepted as “the Spanish Holocaust “.

Durgan also contends that about 38,000 people were executed by the Republicans, about half in the first six weeks of the war. In the same period close to 7000 Catholic clergy were killed. This was accompanied by huge destruction of property, churches, and monasteries and was often the result of chaos, fear, ignorance and criminality.

The immediate background to this war began in early 1930s, which saw a new coalition of republicans and socialists come to power and challenge the total grip of the privileged elites which had dominated Spain for centuries. These elites consisted of the Royalty, large landowners, the Catholic Church and army officers. In stark contrast, landless labourers worked under feudal conditions for wealthy landowners in rural Spain while in urban areas, wealthy industrialists exploited the urban poor. One in four children went to bed hungry each night, women, the chattels of their husbands were largely uneducated, and had no vote. The productive power houses of Catalonia and the Basque country seeking a modern market economy, demanded independence.  These conflicts simmered under the surface.

Graham Coton painting of the bombing of Gernika / Guernica

Earlier insurrections by miners and workers in Asturias in Northern Spain in October 1934, were defeated after which the Army murdered several hundred striking miners. This brutality served as a foretaste of the cataclysm to come and ensured a total break between the two sides. It pitched the urban and rural poor against the privileged elites. Following the General Election of February 1936, a Popular front of the Left emerged victorious and set about giving effect to the long awaited land reforms and improvements in pay and working conditions so long demanded in the mills, factories and large businesses throughout Spain.

Conflict broke out quickly in July 1936 when the Army rebelled in Africa and while the initial mutiny was defeated by the workers militias of the socialist, communist and anarchist trade unions, the country descended into war when the Nationalists under Army Chief, General Francisco Franco established an alternative military controlled state at Burgos in the north of Spain.

There followed one of the most brutal and savage wars seen in Europe. The foreign intervention by Germany (17,000 troops) and Italy (70,000 troops) in terms of men and equipment including planes, along with almost 80,000 Moroccan soldiers contributed to the gradual erosion of the Republican/Popular Front territories. In spite of tremendous, brave and passionate resistance in defence of the elected government by the workers militias and volunteers, the resistance to the Franco onslaught was eventually overcome.

The Soviet Union assisted the Republic. The Communist Comintern, an organisation which advocated global communism, recruited and organised the International Brigades. Some 35,000 volunteers from 53 countries came to fight Franco along with several thousand others who fought with other left wing groups. These were actively involved in all of the severest fighting mainly used as shock troops. They suffered 80% attrition, with 30% killed in action. Their bravery and dedication could not be questioned in what afterwards was called the last just war.

The Spanish Civil war brought out the best in people but also the worst. The April 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Airforce foreshadowed the horror of the widespread indiscriminate bombing of civilians in World War 2. In remembering the battle of Jamara, the defence of Madrid, the battle of the Ebro, the courage of La Pasionaria and the slogan No Pasaran, Guadalajara, the uprising in Barcelona, the battle of Mazuco…………. the long and haunting legacy of Spain remains vivid. Poets and intellectuals such as Federico Garcia Lorca were murdered during the war.   The fight against fascism is commemorated by artists, poets and writers such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and George Orwell.

The Spanish working class challenged the entrenched elites in Spain, fought bravely and courageously for a democratic revolution against impossible odds. The powerful elites of Spain were joined by Hitler and Mussolini who tested their war machines and tactics. The impact of the German Condor Legion on the ground proved very effective in the actual fighting.

"Guernica"

Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica”

The political establishments ruling European democracies, largely sat back and failed to defend a democratically elected government from being overthrown. Could Russia have done more to properly arm the Republicans? Should the communists, socialists, anarchists and varied trade unionists have supported each other more effectively? Thousands of papers have been written and the discussions go on.

What is certain is that as a result of the defeat of the Republic, most of the Spanish people and in particular workers and peasants were consigned to almost 40 years of brutal repression until 1977. (Franco died in 1975). The Second World War soon broke out in Europe. Some historians have considered that had the Republican government/Popular Front defeated the forces of Franco, the Second World War might have been avoided. Yet could the poorly armed untrained republicans ever have defeated the might of the Spanish Army?

In the current volatile political climate which has seen Donald Trump become President of the USA, the British people vote to leave the European Union, the growth of right wing populism, the rise of Putin, are there enduring lessons to learned in relation to the Spanish Civil War? Are these still in any way relevant today?

Historian Harry Owens, who has spent a lifetime researching the Spanish Civil War, has visited Spain many times and has contributed to many books including Brigadista- An Irishman’s Fight Against Fascism- Bob Doyle, will consider this topic on Friday afternoon 4th August at the Maldron Hotel at 2.45.                   

 

The 2017 Cork Mother Jones Lectures.

The 2017 Cork Mother Jones Lectures.

Tuesday 1st August 2017 at 7.30 pm.

 

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley leads the SIPTU Division’s collective bargaining, industrial organising, campaigning, membership growth and activist engagement strategies in the private sector. A member of the Executive Council of the ICTU, she was the inaugural Trade Union Organiser in Residence at Ruskin College, Oxford, England. A Cork woman, she recently led the Clerys Campaign and was involved in the campaign for improvement of conditions of the Irish Womens’ Soccer team.

 

In the age of austerity, with the growth of the so called “gig economy” the widespread use of zero hours contracts, outsourcing and the general removal of protections from workers, trade unions membership as a percentage of the workforce especially in the private sector is decreasing. However a new generation of trade union activists and officials are challenging employers and the government to ensure workers’ rights are protected, workplace regulations are enforced and the role of trade unions remains relevant in Irish society.

 

Ethel Buckley will speak to the topic:

 

“Revitalising the Labour Movement: What can we learn from the Justice for Clerys Workers’ Campaign Victory”

 

 

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne is current President of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland. He took office on the 1st August 2016. Ed is a geography and business studies teacher at Colaiste Choilm in Swords, Co Dublin. He wishes to end discrimination against recently qualified teachers and wants equal pay for equal work.

 

He believes it is completely unacceptable to treat young highly qualified and committed young people entering the teaching profession in this discriminatory fashion. The ASTI which has a membership of 18000 teachers, has been to the forefront of this campaign for some time.

 

Ed Byrne will address the topic:

 

“Challenging Injustice, Inequality and the Unethical!”.

 

 

Ed Goltz with Lord Mayor Mary Shields

James Goltz pictured with the then Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Mary Shields in 2014

James Goltz is a member of the US Labour Union, the United Association.

James is from Bunker Hill, Illinois and has visited the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival twice.

He will deliver what he terms “the essence of Mother Jones” from her grave in Mount Olive Union Cemetery in Illinois to the people of Cork.

 

James has been in contact with a number of American Labour organisations and will present the Cork Mother Jones Committee with three Proclamations from

  • American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations, AFL-CIO International President Richard Trumpka (former President of the UMWA) on behalf of its 12.5 million members.
  • The Illinois AFL-CIO Executive Board and President Michel T. Carrigan on behalf of their one million members.
  • The United Mine Workers of America, UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts on “behalf of a grateful miners’ nation, its friends and allies”. The United Mine Workers of America was founded in 1890 and Mother Jones worked as an UMWA organiser in the coal fields of America in the 1890s.

These three proclamations will be retained and secured by the Cork Mother Jones Committee and one day they will form part of a permanent exhibition to Honour Mother Jones in her native city.

All are welcome to attend at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon, Cork on Tuesday 1st August at 7.30 pm.

 

 

 

 

“The Bolshevik Revolution – its Impact on Cork and the Irish Labour Movement”.

Petrograd

Russian Workers marching for bread and freedom, Petrograd 1917

On Friday morning 4th August at 11.00am at the Maldron Hotel, Historian Luke Dineen will present “The Bolshevik Revolution – Impact on Cork and Irish Labour”.

One hundred years ago, this Revolution changed the face of the world for the rest of the 20th Century, yet what impact if any did it have in Cork, in Ireland or indeed on the Irish labour movement? What did people know about it, how did they hear about it and did it make any difference to the revolutionary events unfolding here in this country?

Luke Dineen will bring his analysis to the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School.

Luke Dineen

Historian Luke Dineen

“In July 1917, the third anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, the situation looked hopeless for Europe’s working class. The ruling classes of Europe had needlessly sleepwalked the continent into the most destructive war the world had ever seen until that point, and it was the workers who suffered the most. Apart from provided the war’s cannon fodder, food shortages, unscrupulous employers and mass inflation had created a cost of living crisis that devastated their lives. But, little did they realise, all was about to change.

On 25 October 1917, Lenin’s Bolshevik Party, through its Red Guards, seized control of key government buildings in Russia. The following day, the Winter Palace was captured. The Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia – the course of history was profoundly changed forever. It was a move that shocked and inspired the world. Europe’s ruling classes trembled with fear at the prospect of the working class seizing power elsewhere. The workers of Europe, on the other hand, were inspired by the example of the Bolsheviks.

For a brief period, post-war Europe seemed to herald the beginning of a new dawn, where the injustices and inequalities of the past would be confined to the past. Russia, for so long Europe’s most backward, autocratic and oppressive country, was now a shining example of what could be achieved.

Dublin meeting

Contemporary poster advertising Dublin meeting to welcome the Bolshevik Revolution

 

The impact of the revolution was seismic. It spread to other parts of Europe when workers in Hungary, Italy and Germany rose to cast off the shackles of capitalism before they were violently suppressed by a reactionary alliance of state and fascist paramilitaries. But the revolution’s influence on the rest of the world did not die with these failed uprisings.

Indeed, it would have a deep impact on a revolution that was brewing on the other side of Europe, where the forces of imperialism were all too familiar and had been for centuries. In Ireland, the October Revolution left a deep imprint on the psyche of a labour movement that had been radicalised by the war years. Furthermore, imperialist intervention in Russia to crush the revolution resonated with a republican movement that had won popular support through its promise of casting off the yolk of British domination.

As we approach its centenary, it is timely to examine the influence of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on Ireland, both in the immediate aftermath and in the subsequent years. This talk will outline that influence on the Irish labour movement, which was struggling for working-class emancipation amidst national revolution. It will also examine how the Bolsheviks influenced labour’s participation in a war that delivered partial independence.

La Pasionaria – the story of Dolores Ibárruri

La Pasionaria

Dolores Ibarruri (La Pasionaria) -addressing a huge rally at Madrid in 1936.

On Friday 4th August at 2.15, local historian, Anne Twomey will speak of the life of Dolores Ibárruri known as “La Pasionaria”, the Passion Flower. This talk forms part of an afternoon and evening of events devoted to an examination of the issues and lessons of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and events devoted to some of the Irish people who fought in the International Brigades.

Dolores Ibárruri was born into a mining family in Gallarta in the Basque country in Northern Spain in 1895. In a curious similarity to the early life personal tragedy of Mother Jones, Dolores trained as a dressmaker, poverty prevented her from becoming a teacher although she almost completed her studies. She married a miner, Julian Ruiz from Asturias in 1915. They had six children, five girls and a boy including triplets, however four of those died soon after birth, while her son Ruben died during the Second World War in the Soviet Union.

Monument in Glasgow

Monument to Dolores Ibarruri (La Pasionaria) in Glasgow by sculptor Arthur Dooley (Photo Ciaran Roarty via Wikimedia Commons)

Born a Catholic, she became a member of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) in 1921 and wrote extensively in miners’ newspapers. Becoming more prominent in the party she was known for her fiery and passionate speeches, which aroused great loyalty among her supporters. Dolores was elected from the Asturias to the Spanish parliament (the Cortes) in 1936.

She was centrally involved in many of the events leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War. Known as La Pasionaria (The Passion Flower) she oversaw the emergence of the Spanish Communist Party into a central role during the war. She was to the forefront in the struggles with the anarchists during the initial stages of the war. Fleeing Spain in 1939, she eventually arrived in the Soviet Union where she assisted with the war effort through the 40s. She lived in Moscow and was well regarded and close to the Soviet regime, including Stalin. Serving as General Secretary of the PCE for many years from 1942 to 1960, she stayed in the Soviet Union until 1977 and met all the major communist and socialist leaders across the world.

In the meantime Dolores was involved in establishing an underground resistance in Spain to Franco, which achieved little success in the initial decades due to much internal conflict and the total control of Spain by the Franco government. On her return to Spain, she was re-elected to Parliament but suffered from ill-health and retired from active politics. She died in November 1989, aged 93 years. (the same age as Mother Jones!)

Anne Twomey

Cork Historian and author Anne Twomey

 

She is best remembered publicly for her broadcast on Madrid Radio in November 1936, where in another echo of history she exhorted the defenders of the besieged city that “It is better to die on your feet than live for ever on your knees! They shall not pass!” “No Pasarán” became the battle-cry of Madrid and the besieged Republic.  Later in October 1938, she delivered her passionate message of appreciation to the departing members of the International Brigades which is still much quoted.

 

 

Sweet Olive String Band makes sweet music

 

Sweet Olive

Mike and Pat from the Sweet Olive String Band

 

The Sweet Olive String Band will play in concert at the Maldron Hotel on Saturday night 5th August from 8pm.

 

Woodbine, a bluegrass band from Athy, Co Kildare is the support act.

 

This concert will bring the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School to a pulsating end.

 

Tickets at €10 each can be obtained from 087 7921771 or during the festival at the Maldron Hotel. 

 

 

The New Orleans based Sweet Olive String Band is heading to Europe this summer for dates in the UK and Ireland.   Formed in 2012, The Sweet Olive String Band creates music that harkens back to an authentic and rarely heard sound from those early Grand Ole Opry days that conjures up the sounds of the early pioneers of the genre like Hank Williams, early Bill Monroe and the Stanley brothers.  Founders Mike Kerwin and Pat Flory are talented multi-instrumentalists who swap between acoustic guitars, mandolins, Steel Guitars and Stand Up Bass, and specialize in the high lonesome harmonies first made famous by the bluegrass and country brother duets of the 1940s and 50s. They will be joined on this trip by fellow multi-instrumentalist Jeff Burke, formerly of Jeff & Vida fame, who will pitch in on banjo, guitar, and mandolin. Irish audiences may remember Burke and Kerwin from their multiple tours with The Jeff & Vida Band, but this will mark the first appearance of Pat Flory outside of the US and the debut for the Sweet Olive String Band.

Jeff

Jeff from the Sweet Olive String Band

Pat Flory is the quintessential elder-statesmen-Old-Time-Country-and-Bluegrass-musician in New Orleans.  The 69 year old has been keeping the flame of bluegrass and country music alive in New Orleans for over 4 decades.   His deep love and expert execution of the genre come from a life steeped in exploring, playing, and preserving country music in Southeast Louisiana.  Pat was a mentor to Bela Fleck and spent a good deal of time performing with Bill C Malone, the historian and writer of Country Music USA-one of the definitive histories of Country music in the United States.  .

 

Mike Kerwin has been a successful singer songwriter and acoustic musician for over 20 years in New Orleans.  His original compositions have received widespread praise in the city and beyond since the release of his solo album Rowboat.  Mike is a sought after sideman on Stand Up Bass and guitar and has been performing with some of New Orleans best known roots acts including The Jeff and Vida Band, Johnny Sansone, Ingrid Lucia and others.   Mike’s passion for acoustic bluegrass and country music has seen him emerge as one of New Orleans most active performers, preservers, and champions of the style in a city largely dominated by jazz and blues.  That passion led him to Pat Flory and the formation of the Sweet Olive String Band, where he bends his own instrumental and vocal talents with Flory’s to create their authentic and compelling sound.  Their show also feature a number of Kerwin’s original compositions which feel right at home in the style.

poster

Sweet Olive String Band poster

Jeff Burke, co-founder of the Jeff & Vida Band, has been collaborating with both Kerwin and Flory on and off for the last 20 years.   A move to Nashville in 2005, took Burke away from New Orleans but he has returned often for musical collaborations with the Sweet Olive founders.  Burke’s move to Nashville allowed him to immerse himself in that city’s pulsing bluegrass and country roots and to spend time picking with and learning from some of the best known talent in the business.  His deep love of bluegrass led him to begin teaching in 2013 and in addition to becoming a sought after sideman in Music City, he has become a well-respected bluegrass instructor, leading group classes, workshops and lessons in Nashville and at festivals around the country.

 

 

History in the making at the grave of Mother Jones

James Goltz lifts the clay

James Goltz lifting the clay from the grave of Mother Jones. (Photo via James Goltz)

As reported from Mount Olive, Illinois by James Goltz

Unique history in the making in Mt. Olive Illinois,at the Union Miners’ Cemetery involving the legendary labour agitator, Mother Harris Jones (Mother Jones), Friends of Mother Jones and Ireland. Mother Jones is buried in the only union owned cemetery in the country, she is the only immigrant who has a so-named festival in her homeland who became a giant in our labour movement, and soon she will be the first to have bit of clay from above her grave transported to her birthplace, the Shandon district in Cork City, Ireland.

Photo shows Secretary of the Mount Olive Perpetual Care Committee Secretary, Mike Krachmar assisting with the placement of the clay in a temporary container. (Photo via James Goltz)

On June 11, Illinois labor activist James Goltz, along with the Perpetual Care Committee of the cemetery held a formal ceremony at her grave site where a bit of clay was removed above her grave. It was given to James Goltz to transport and formally present to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival organisers in the Shandon Historic Quarter as part of their festival. In addition at the festival, Goltz will also read and present 3 proclamations heralding Mother Jones and the festival from the AFL-CO, the Illinois AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers of America.

Mount Olive entrance

The entrance to the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive, Illinois

  

Frank Ryan and the Limerick Brigadistas

Spain

On site with the film crew Angelo Vernuccio, (Sound Man) Ger McCloskey, Eddie Noonan,(Frameworks Films) Tom Collopy and Alan Warren.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee will show the Cork premiere of TheLimerick Brigadistas – From the Shannon to the Ebro…a film documentary by the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust (LIBMT) and Frameworks Films on Friday 4th August at 7.30 at the Firkin Theatre in Shandon on Cork’s Northside.  All are welcome.

LIBMT logo

Logo of the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust (LIBMT)

The Limerick Brigadistas – From the Shannon to the Ebro’ tells the story of six men from Limerick who went to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).  Approximately 240 Irish volunteers fought with the International Brigades during the war and the documentary depicts the lives of the six men from Limerick who fought with the XV International Brigade – Maurice Emmett Ryan, Jim Woulfe, Frank Ryan, Gerard Doyle, Paddy Brady and Joe Ryan. 

It explores what motivated these men to leave Ireland to fight in another country and what subsequently happened to them. The documentary follows members of the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust as they travel to Spain to find the final resting place of some of their fellow Limerick men and to look at the relevance of their story in today’s world. The documentary was produced by Frameworks Films and the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust. 

Ger McCloskey, Emma Gilleece, Tom Collopy of the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust

Frank Ryan

Frank Ryan

Best remembered is Frank Ryan, born in Elton, near Knocklong in Co Limerick on 11th September, he spent from 1916 to 1921 at St Colman’s College, Fermoy. Ryan led some 80 volunteers from Ireland to Spain in 1936, he was wounded in March 1937, recovered in Ireland but returned to Spain where he was captured in March 1938. He endured Franco’s prison camps before eventually arriving in Germany. He died in Dresden,Germany in June 1944. His story in Spain is told in this documentary.

 

 

 

On location

Documentary reenactors on location including Alan Warren