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The IBMT has added its name to a letter of protest to the regional government of Aragón for its decision to repeal a Law of Democratic Memory.

The law allows funding for the excavation of mass graves of the victims of Franco during Spain’s civil war and the subsequent dictatorship.

Aragón is run by a coalition of the rightwing PP and far-right Vox parties. It took office last year following elections that saw the socialist PSOE-led administration removed from office.

Enacted by the then ruling PSOE government, the region’s 2018 Law of Democratic Memory commits the government to recovery the remains of civil war victims and return them to their families.

Many International Brigaders were killed in Aragón and their remains lie in unmarked graves. More than 150 British and Irish lives were lost.

According to historian Paul Preston’s ‘The Spanish Holocaust’, 8,523 supporters of the Spanish Republic were executed behind Francoist lines between 1936-39. An unknown number of Republican soldiers were also killed in the province, which straddles the Ebro in north-east Spain.

The letter of protest to the authorities in Zaragoza, the regional capital, was coordinated early in April by the Madrid-based AABI, Friends of the International Brigades.

‘We request the restoration of the so-called Democratic Memory Law of Aragón as a means of finding a way to close the wounds of the past,’ says AABI in its letter. 

As well as the IBMT, others signatories include International Brigade memorial associations in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia and the US.

The British Battalion saw action in Aragón at Belchite in the autumn of 1937, at Teruel early in 1938 and in the spring of that year in and around Caspe. At Teruel, fighting took place amid severe winter conditions (see main picture – courtesy of the Marx Memorial Library).

The 2023 Len Crome Memorial Conference, which took place on 11 November 2023, is now available to watch online.

The conversation between leading historians on the Spanish Civil War Helen Graham and Paul Preston, with Richard Baxell in the chair, charts the long roots of the Spanish Civil War.

Helen, Paul and Richard trace the conflict's origins back to the First World War – not only with attempts to wipe out the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 but also to double down on any socially levelling reform inside the developed industrial heartlands of Europe, including Britain.

Paul Preston is one of the world’s foremost historians of the causes, course and consequences of the Spanish Civil War. He is the IBMT’s Founding Chair.

Helen Graham is Emeritus Professor of modern European history at Royal Holloway University of London and is the author of ‘Interrogating Francoism' and ‘The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction’. She is also an IBMT Patron.

Richard Baxell is the author of 'Forged in Spain'. He is a research fellow at the LSE and the IBMT's Historical Consultant.

The video also features Peter Crome, who discusses his father’s life and legacy.

To watch the previous Len Crome Memorial Conferences online, go to the IBMTNews Len Crome playlist on YouTube.

Front cover of January's issue of ¡No Pasarán!,

Cover: Sean Cooney, member of folk trio The Young'uns.

Issue 1-2024 of the IBMT digital magazine, ¡No Pasaran!, has gone out to all paid-up members by email.

On the cover is Sean Cooney, member of folk trio The Young'uns, on stage at the IBMT’s Annual General Meeting last October in Stockton-on-Tees. Behind him is an image of local Brigader Johnny Longstaff.

Lesser-known stories take centre stage in this issue with Tony Fuller and Leonie Parkes's feature on the Brigaders who served in the Republican navy and David Ebsworth's article on the violence committed by both sides during the civil war.

Other highlights include Paul Preston’s account of the horrors of the Málaga-Almería road massacre, IBMT President Marlene Sidaway's New Year message, and reviews of ‘Forged in Spain’, ‘British Battles of the Spanish Civil War: Fighting Franco’ and ‘Tomorrow Perhaps the Future’.

Print issues are available via the IBMT Shop.

Members receive three issues of the digital magazine a year. Keep up to date with your membership to ensure you get the latest digital issue as soon as it is published by renewing online.

Posted on 19 January 2024.

Members of Parliament are signing up to an Early Day Motion (EDM) marking the 85th anniversary of the return of the International Brigades from the war in Spain. 

The motion also praises the work of the IBMT in keeping alive the memory of the volunteers ‘who fought on the side of the Republican Government against fascism of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler’.

The EDM has been tabled by Beth Winter, the Labour MP for Cynon Valley in Wales, and has attracted cross-party and UK-wide support from Scottish National, Plaid Cymru and Social Democratic & Labour Party MPs.

It was on the evening of 7 December 1938 that the remaining 304 members of the British Battalion arrived at London’s Victoria Station. They received a rousing welcome from tens of thousands of well-wishers and were addressed by labour movement dignitaries, including Labour leader Clem Attlee.

Some 2,500 men and women from Britain and Ireland had volunteered to fight in Spain, and 530 of them lost their lives in a conflict that presaged the Second World War.

The International Brigades were disbanded in the final months of the Spanish Civil War as the Spanish Republic tried in vain to increase diplomatic pressure on Hitler and Mussolini to withdraw their forces from Spain.

Beth Winter.

As well as Winter, the other five sponsors of the EDM are Richard Burgon (Labour, Leeds East), Ian Byrne (Labour, Liverpool West Derby), Jeremy Corbyn (Independent, Islington North), Claire Hanna (SDLP, Belfast South) and Chris Stephens (SNP, Glasgow South West). The signatories also include several Plaid Cymru MPs.

IBMT supporters are being urged to press their own constituency MPs to sign up to the EDM.

Throughout this week, events are being staged by the IBMT around the country to commemorate the anniversary of the return of the Brigades.

The full text of the EDM 149 says:

That this House notes that 7 December 2023 marks the 85th anniversary of the return to Britain of the British and Irish volunteer members of the International Brigades who fought on the side of the Republican Government against fascism of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler in the Spanish Civil War; recalls that 304 volunteers of around 2500 who served from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth were met at Victoria Station by Labour Party leader Clement Attlee MP; regrets the 530 deaths the British and Irish volunteers suffered; notes there are now over 100 memorials to volunteers across Britain and that they continue to increase in number; and celebrates the ongoing work of the International Brigade Memorial Trust, including through its work in schools, and through its close relationship with official governmental and civic society sister organisations in Spain, to keep the volunteers memory alive.

This year’s Len Crome Memorial Conference will be an online conversation between leading historians of the Spanish Civil War, Helen Graham and Paul Preston, with Richard Baxell in the chair.

Organised by the IBMT, the free event takes place on Saturday 11 November 2023 from 2pm-3.30pm. Register here.

It is generally understood that the war of 1936-9 in Spain was a Europe-wide conflict, in terms of state power politics, the rise of fascism and ordinary people’s anti-fascist engagement. This phenomenon has been explained by a number of historians, including Paul Preston and Helen Graham as a ‘European civil war’. 

In this conversation with Richard Baxell, they chart the war’s long roots. These go back at least to the First World War – not only with attempts to wipe out the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, but also to double down on any socially levelling reform inside the developed industrial heartlands of Europe, including Britain. 

From left: Helen Graham, Paul Preston and Richard Baxell.

The First World War had meant the massive mobilisation of ordinary people across the continent as soldiers and home-front workers, and afterwards they demanded not only political change but also levelling social change. New industrial cities were growing up or expanding everywhere and were perceived as a  threat to the pre-1914  power elites of Europe/Britain, who still hoped for ‘business as usual’ after 1918.  

It is this picture which explains why, when Spain’s military tried to stifle the country’s new, democratically elected and socially reforming government, it wasn’t only Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany that wanted them to win, but also the British establishment and much of France’s too.

Paul Preston and Helen Graham and Richard Baxell will trace these developments to show how they led to a situation where not only fascist dictatorships but also democratic states in Europe largely preferred a Franco victory in the Spanish war. 

In the end this would come with a Nazi price tag, one that soon forced Britain and France to fight another world war, the one that completed the destruction of their imperial pre-eminence in the world. 

Given that the Second World War might potentially have been avoided, had Britain especially made different decisions over Spain, then we can also say that the war of 1936-39 wasn’t only European in its reach, but global too.

Len Crome, born Lazar Krom in 1909 in Latvia, then part of Imperial Russia, trained as a doctor in Edinburgh and was a GP in Blackburn in 1936 when he volunteered to go to Spain. He rose to the rank of major in the Spanish People’s Army and headed the medical services of the mainly English-speaking 15th Brigade and the mainly German-speaking 11th Brigade. He served in the British Army during the Second World War, earning a Military Cross for his bravery at Monte Cassino. After the war he became an eminent pathologist in London and, until his death in 2001, was the chair of the International Brigade Association.

The IBMT’s 2023 Annual General Meeting will take place on Saturday 7 October, as part of a weekend of commemorative, educational and social activities in Stockton-on-Tees.

Friday 6 October
6:30pm: Drinks reception at Middlesbrough Town Hall, Albert Road, Middlesbrough TS1 2QJ to view International Brigade memorial. Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald to speak. With a flamenco ensemble or Spanish guitarist.
7:30pm: Social at Unite, Fry Street, Middlesbrough TS1 1HA with buffet and drinks. Welcome from Chris Cooke, Middlesbrough Mayor. Poetry from Tabitha McGowan and music from Ella-Joy Hunton. Event expected to finish at 9:30pm.

Saturday 7 October
Transport from Middlesbrough (outside Unite office) can be provided if required.
11am: Pete Widlinski and Sheila Gray in the Georgian Theatre, Green Dragon Yard, Stockton-on-Tees TS18 1AT on Stockton’s volunteers, with Q&A.
12 noon: Commemoration and wreath-laying at the International Brigade memorial, Wasp Nest Yard, Stockton TS18 1TB. Family members and IBMT Chair Jim Jump to speak. 
12:30pm: Time to explore Stockton, including the nearby The Golden Smog (1 Hambletonian Yard, Stockton TS18 1DS), pub with an International Brigade flag mural.
2:30pm: AGM (see agenda below) in the Georgian Theatre (see above). Tea or coffee on arrival. Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees Jim Beall to open. 
4:30pm: Steel Sisters to perform. 
5pm: Chris McDonald (Stockton North Labour prospective parliamentary candidate) to speak.
5:20pm: Juan Díaz family member to speak.
6pm: Joe Solo in the main hall.
7pm: Social in the bar until late, with Dan Donnelly of The Levellers.

Sunday 8 September
10:30am: Anti-fascist walk in Stockton with Teesside’s own Time Traveller, Martin Peagham. Meeting place TBC.

Attendees are asked to confirm by 25 September whether they will be attending the Middlesbrough Town Hall and Unite reception on Friday evening by writing to IBMT Secretary Megan Dobney at secretary@international-brigades.org.uk.

Memorial in Wasp's Nest Yard.

AGM agenda

  1. Chair’s opening remarks
  2. Marlene Sidaway on Teesside and Spain 
  3. Approval of minutes of the 2022 AGM
  4. Matters arising not otherwise on the agenda
  5. IBMT Constitution – proposed amendments (see below)
  6. Executive Committee annual report
  7. Finance report, including 2022-2023 accounts
  8. Election of two scrutineers
  9. Election of five Executive Committee members (see below) – four for three years, one for one year [the submission of ballot papers to be preceded by a one minute contribution from those candidates who wish to make one]*
  10. Date and place of 2024 AGM
  11. Any Other Business (previously notified)**
    1. National Memorial Arboretum
    2. Motion: AGM venue
  12. Scrutineers’ report of election results
  13. Chair’s closing remarks

* Nominations have been received and accepted by John Haywood/David Chanter (jobshare), Paul Coles, Alex Gordon and Jonathan Havard.
** Proposals for agenda item ‘Any Other Business’ must be received in writing by the Secretary (see below) by 8am on 30 September.

Agenda item 9: Notice of nominations

Nominations are invited for candidates to fill five vacancies on the Executive Committee (EC). If necessary, a ballot will be held among members attending the AGM. Four vacancies arise because John Haywood / David Chanter (jobshare), Paul Coles, Alex Gordon and Jonathan Havard will have completed their terms of office by the AGM and they will therefore step down and an election, in which they are permitted to stand, along with other IBMT members, will take place. In addition, James Bentley has resigned from the EC.

All IBMT members may nominate fellow members to serve on the EC. Nominations must be made in writing and received by the Secretary by 8am on 23 September. The names of the candidates will be published on the IBMT website in advance of the AGM. 

Send nominations and proposed agenda items by email (these will be acknowledged) to: secretary@international-brigades.org.uk or by post to: IBMT Secretary, 37a Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU.

Agenda item 5: Executive Committee’s proposed amendments to the IBMT Constitution

Delete all items highlighted in italics:

G: EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 

(3) Members of the Executive Committee, excepting the President, shall be elected to serve a three-year term of office (excepting those covered by the provisions of sub paragraph G(4)) and shall retire at the conclusion of the Annual General Meeting at the end of their three-year term of office but will be entitled to stand for reelection.  

(4) At the 2019 Annual General Meeting the Chair, Secretary and Treasurer plus two members of the Executive Committee shall retire and there will be an election for four Executive Committee members. At the Annual General Meeting in 2020, four additional members of the Executive Committee (excluding those elected in 2019) shall retire and there will be an election for four Executive Committee members. Executive Committee members other than the Chair, Secretary and Treasurer shall retire in 2019 and 2020 in order of the number of votes received in the election at the 2018 Annual General Meeting, with those with the fewest votes retiring first; where two or more Executive Committee members received the same number of votes, their order of retiring shall be determined by lot. 

[Renumber subsequent sub-clauses G(5), G(6), G(7) and G(8) accordingly.]

H: DETERMINATION OF MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

(iii) is absent without the permission of the Executive Committee from all their meetings held within a period of six [replace by ‘eight’] months and the Executive Committee resolve that his or her office be vacated; or

Hotels

Stockton: Hampton by Hilton is a five-minute walk away from the Georgian Theatre, where we will be meeting on Saturday. The Parkwood Hotel is a five-minute drive away from Stockton town centre. Middlesbrough: The Leonardo Hotel and Premier Inn Town Centre are less than a two-minute to the Unite office, where we will be a reception on Friday evening.

Originally posted on 29 August 2023; updated on 7, 27 and 28 September 2023 and 3 October 2023.

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