'Negative' comments on individual volunteers

Post date: 04/01/2022

It's not uncommon for people who consult the IBMT’s database of individual Brigaders to be surprised by the negative tone of some of the entries. The comments usually relate to ill-discipline, drunkenness and desertion. However, these derogatory assessments are often contradicted by contemporary newspaper reports or statements made by other volunteers.

IBMT Trustees discussed this matter in December. They agreed that a warning note putting these negative comments in context should be made more prominent when the Trust launches a redesigned website later this year.

The IBMT is also inviting feedback on any entries containing negative assessments, in particular new information about the individuals concerned.

The source for most of the negative comments is the confidential records of the volunteers in the so-called Moscow Archive. These were kept by the Comintern (Communist International) and were taken to the Soviet Union at the end of the war in Spain.

The website’s warning note states: ‘The records include assessments of the volunteers made by their political superiors in the latter part of the war in Spain. Many are highly derogatory, referring to desertion, drunkenness and indiscipline, but should be taken with a pinch of salt, sometimes a very large amount. They were written for internal use, primarily as an assessment of suitability for future membership of the Communist Party at home and were often made by a party representative who may have had a grudge against certain individuals or may simply have been wrong. Many volunteers with outstanding military records in Spain – including senior ranking officers – received extremely critical assessments.’

The IBMT’s online database of the volunteers lists more than 2,000 men and women, and is still growing. Individual entries are updated whenever new information comes to light. Over the past year many photographs have also been added. The database can be accessed here.

Send any new information about individual volunteers, including photos, and giving sources such as personal papers or newspaper cuttings to:

Posted on 4 January 2022.
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