Companero Roma Marquez Santo presente

Very sad to hear from Alan Warren that Roma Marquez Santo has passed away.

This morning (29th December, 2010), Roma Marquez Santo, miliciano of the Columna Lenin and teniente of the Ejercito Popular passed away peacefully in Barcelona at the age of 94.[…] (more…)

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Roma Marquez Santo

I’m not sure whether or not I’ve linked already to this short interview with Roma Marquez Santo, POUM veteran of the Spanish Civil War, recently in Dublin. There is an inaccuracy in the title: I’m pretty sure Roma is not a veteran Spanish anarchist, but a veteran Spanish socialist, but thanks to WSM for publishing this anyway. He was in a POUM militia, and when the Popular Front government regularised the Republican army (as part of the Stalinist-led counter-revolution within the anti-fascist struggle) this became ‘s 29th Division. It was liquidated after the Barcelona “May events”, and after it was liquidated joined the 28th Division, which was basically an anarchist militia. Also, Roma was a member of the CNT (the anarcho-syndicalist affiliated union), whereas most Poumistas were in the UGT (the socialist affiliated union).

Sources: Helen Graham The Spanish Republic at War; Andy Durgan “The hidden story of the Spanish Revolution”; Harry Owens “Roma Martez Santo”.

P.S. Also at WSM: Biography of Dr John Creaghe, cosmopolitan Irish anarchist.

Roma Marquez Santo and John Cornford

Thanks to Ciaran Crossey for an article by Harry Owens about Poum veteran Roma Marquez Santo after his recent talk in Dublin. Highly recommended. [Related: Not Just Orwell.]

Thanks to faceless for the video of George Galloway talking about John Cornford on the BBC’s Great Lives. Recommended with reservations. [See also: The Scots who fought Franco; Brian Pearce on John Cornford.]

Not Just Orwell…

Having already reported on the visit to Ireland of Catalan POUM veteran Roma Marquez Santo [TOMORROW NIGHT IN DUBLIN], here are some more related links. Marquez Santo was also in Salford, at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford , for the launch of Not Just Orwell by Christopher Hall, telling the story of the ILP volunteers who fought in Spain against fascism. Not Just Orwell is published by Warren and Pell. A plaque to the ILP Contingent was also unveiled, and attended by Sidney Robinson, an Independent Labour Party activist in the 1930s who chaired the Newport Spanish Aid Committee. (Excellent report from Matthew Brown at the ILP. Good report at The Olive Press, including a wonderful YouTube of revolutionary Barcelona and George Orwell drinking tea [from George Orwell: A Life in Pictures]. Brief reports at SB News and Histomatist.)

Related material at Bataille Socialiste: a YouTube of the POUM cavalry in Barcelona.

More on the POUM from BS here, including just a couple of English texts:

Great men

The Cedar Lounge Revolution: A conversation with Roma Marquez Santo… veteran of the Spanish Civil War

Santo final copy

Roma Marquez is a 93-year old Catalan who joined the POUM militia on the outbreak of the generals’ revolt in July ‘36 and who later joined the anarchist militia after the POUM were suppressed.

He spent several years in prison after the war and returned to live in BCN where he has remained politically active.

Be sure to read the fascinating comment thread, including this from one of the organisers:

Roma [Marquez Santo] was born in 1916, the same year as Bob Doyle[1] and one of his earliest memories is being told by his mother of the death of Terence MacSweeny. This was at a time when anarchists were striking in BCN in support of the Irish Republic and Roma has continued to keep in touch with what passes here for political development.
Roma joined a mortar unit with the POUM militia on the Aragón front. His unit was in the line with anarchists, who encouraged them to sign over politically to avoid arrest by Soviet agents. Roma and his comrades joined the CNT militia and after it was subsumed into the Communist-controlled Republican Army, Roma was sent to an officer training camp. He was promoted to lieutenant and sent to the quiet front at Estramadura, where he says he ‘avoided the bloody slaughter of the Ebro’.
The POUM were affiliated with the ILP in the UK and George Orwell was perhaps their best known British volunteer. To a certain extent the SP occupy this political ground today. Roma also knew Durutti and attended his funeral after his death in Madrid.

And some interesting items from Jim Moneghan, such as:

Paddy Trench who was in the ILP in Britain worked with the POUM.
Brian Verschoyle Gould who was a comintern courier expressed doubts about the supression of the POUM, was kidnapped in Barcelona and died in the Gulag.
Nora Connolly O’Brien wrote a letter on behalf of the POUM when it was supressed.
I think the ILP affiliate in NI had a relationship with the POUM.[…]

On a footnote most of the Russians who were sent to Spain died in the gulag. The last major purge in the Eastern European states took many of the Spanish veterans. Read Arthur London’s “[The Confession]”, filmed with Yves Montand. Having fought in Spain was effectively evidence of Zionist/trotskyist deviations of at least that you were a spy. I think this purge turned many away from the Socialist/Communist ideal and to zionism. From the God that failed to the zionist God so to speak.
The awful La Pasionaria was still telling lies up to the end. She slandered the anarchist head of the Valencian collectives as a millionaire when he was a waiter in an hotel in South America. See Beevors book on the Civil War.
The best website on the Irish and the Spanish civil war is run by Ciaran Crossey who was if not still is a member of the Socialist party.
The safest place to be for a IB veteran was probably the USA and the West.
The defence of the purges and the mentality about it helped create the atmosphere in the Officials that aggravated the internecine fight with the IRSP. I remember the stuff about how Joe Stalin knew how to deal with these people.

Best film Gregory Peck as an anarchist fighter who refuses to give up. “Behold a pale horse”. With Anthony Quinn as the Franco police chief.
Best book “Hermanos” by Heerick. On a CPUSA member who is disillusioned.

Subversive Historian – 07/09/09

Oliver Law and the Lincoln Brigade

Back in the day on July 9th, 1937, Oliver Law, Commander of the Lincoln Brigade, died leading his troops during a campaign of the Spanish Civil War. Noted by history as the first African-American to command an integrated military force of U.S. citizens, Law suffered a fatal wound in the attack on Mosquito Ridge during the Battle of Brunete. Of internationalist concerns prior to the outbreak of Civil War in Spain, Law was born in West Texas and served in the segregated U.S. army. Following his career in the military he went to Chicago and became an organizer who was arrested for speaking at a rally against Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia. Firmly anti-Fascist, Law joined many other African-Americans and other U.S. citizens in forming the volunteer Lincoln Brigade to assist in the struggle against General Franco.

Wishing to enshrine the life of Law and others like him, Paul Robeson once said, “I would like to make a film on the life of a Black commander of the Lincoln Battalion who died there; but this would be refused by the big Yankee movie companies.”

More great men: Sam Wild, Bernard McKenna, the Welshmen of the XV.