IBMT conference spotlights Scottish Brigaders

Post date: 24/03/2022

The IBMT's 2022 Len Crome Memorial Conference, held on Saturday 19 March, explored the importance and legacy of those International Brigade volunteers who went from Scotland to Spain to fight fascism.

More than 50 members and supporters gathered at the University of Edinburgh for what was the first in-person Len Crome event in three years.

Each of the three main speakers, historian Fraser Raeburn, Spanish democratic memory campaigner Máximo Molina and IBMT Scotland Secretary Mike Arnott, addressed the theme of Scotland and the Spanish Civil War in different ways.

Len Crome and Edinburgh

The conference began with a talk by Professor Peter Crome (above), the son of doctor and International Brigader Len Crome, after whom the annual conference is named. Peter Crome presented records of his father’s life, detailing his time as a medical student at Edinburgh University in the 1930s, the early development of his left-wing politics and his struggle against fascism from his time in the International Brigades through to his service in the Second World War.

How Scotland has remembered the International Brigades

IBMT Scotland Secretary Mike Arnott (above) provided an overview of the various ways Scottish International Brigaders have been celebrated and commemorated across the nation over the past two decades. Arnott listed the various plaques, sculptures, plays, documentaries and books that have helped preserve their memory, many of them from the initiative or support of the IBMT.

What was special about the Scottish volunteers?

In the keynote talk of the conference, Dr Fraser Raeburn outlined some of the theories he presented in his recent history of the Scottish volunteers, ‘Scots and the Spanish Civil War: Solidarity, Activism and Humanitarianism’ (2020).

Explaining why such a proportionally high number of Scots volunteered for the International Brigades, Raeburn argued that it was not the outcome of either an essential Scottish national character nor due to the high concentration of industrial workers, but the presence of a strong Communist Party political culture. It was the strength of these local political and social bonds that encouraged many Scots to collectively volunteer for Spain.

The struggle for democratic memory in Tarancón 

The final conference speaker was Máximo Molina (above), president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) Cuenca, who spoke about the organisation’s ongoing projects to uncover, exhume and restore anti-fascist history in the province.

Molina provided a harrowing account of the history of his home town of Tarancón, from the civil war period when it was the site of four hospitals serving the Jarama front and providing treatment to International Brigaders, to its conquest by Franco’s forces and the repression and killing of Republicans in the period that followed. He gave special mention to Scottish volunteers who are remembered on a memorial plaque in the town’s cemetery.

Posted on 24 March 2022.

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