Friday, 14 November 2008


Lia Nickson illustration
for Edwin Rolfe's book
First Love and Other Poems

"And we must remember cleanly why we fought,
clearly why we left these inadequate shores
and turned our eyes, our hearts, Spainward. We must never
lie to ourselves again, deceive ourselves with dreams
that make sleep sluggish. Our world
is new now, clean and clear; our eyes can see
the perfect bone and tissue now, remembering
the flesh cut open, the gangrened limbs, the rot
that almost, almost...but did not reach the heart.

And if we find all known things changed
now after two years amid fabulous truth;
if we find dulled the once sharp edges
of trivial loves; even if we find
our truest loves indifferent, even false -
we must remember cleanly why we went,
clearly why we fought; and returning see
with truth's unfilmed eye what remains constant,

the loyalties which endure, the loves that grow,
the certainties men need, live for, die to build,
the certainties that make all living tolerable."

"Postscript to a War"

Edwin Rolfe

for Michael Gordon


London graffiti by Mantis

According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children die each day
due to poverty.

Each day.

They "die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth,
far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world.
Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even
more invisible in death.”

Oh yes we have a crisis.

Quotation taken from:

Anup Shah, Poverty Facts and Stats,,

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

1938. 1968. 2008.

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, medal winners
John Carlos and Tommie Smith gave the raised fist salute during
the American national anthem as a sign of black power and protest
on behalf of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

For this, they were barred from further Olympic activities.

"The raised fist which greets you in Salud is not just a gesture,
it means life and liberty being fought for and a greeting of
solidarity with the democratic peoples of the world."

Mary Rolfe.*

to Leo Hurwitz and Janey Dudley.

25 November 1938.

"Madrid 1937: Letters of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from
the Spanish Civil War."
Cary Nelson & Jefferson Hendricks.

Great expectations indeed.

* To read another letter from Mary Rolfe describing an
air raid in Barcelona, click here.

And for a little about her life: Cary Nelson's article in

The Volunteer

Journal of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Volume XXI, No.2. Spring 1999 p18-20

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Volunteers of America

Salaria Kee (O' Reilly)

Why Didn't You Come Yesterday?

Salaria Kee (O' Reilly) was one of the few Afro-American women
who came to Spain with the International Brigades as a nurse for
the American Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy.

She had graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing
in New York in 1934. After hearing a speech by a Spanish doctor
at the University of New York about what was happening
in Spain she volunteered.

"On March 27, 1937 she sailed from New York with the second
American Medical Unit to Republican Spain. A party of twelve
nurses and physicians. Salaria was the only Negro in this group.
Hundreds of Negro boys had preceded her. They had gone as
soldiers, physicians, and ambulance drivers. She was the first
Negro woman to go.

It was April third when the party reached Port Bou, Spain. A
huge delegation of Spanish men, women and children came
down to welcome them. A small boy left the crowd and came over
to Salaria. Taking her hand he complained softly,

"Why didn't you come yesterday?"

"Why yesterday?" Salaria asked him.

"Because yesterday the fascists came in their planes and dropped
bombs. My mother and my father and my small brothers died..."

Stationed first at the hospital installed in Villa Paz, former
summer residence of the abdicated King of Spain Alfonso XIII,
she later moved to a field hospital unit near Teruel. She was
captured by German troops but managed to escape.

In October 1937 she married John O' Reilly, one of the first Irish
volunteers to go to Spain.

Information (mainly) and quotation from the excellent web:

Ireland and the Spanish Civil War

where you can read more.

And if you have the chance watch Julia Newman's

Into the Fire. American Women in the Spanish Civil War

Afro-American members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

"why I, a Negro, who have fought through these
years for the rights of my people, am here in Spain
today? Because if we crush Fascism here, [we] will
build us a new society - a society of peace and plenty.
There will be no color line, no jim-crow trains, no
lynchings. That is why, my dear, I am here in Spain."

Canute Frankson.
(to my dear friend).
Albacete, Spain, July 6, 1937.

And a song:

From Jefferson Airplane

some 30 years later.

for a day, like today.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Manuel Muñoz and Barcelona Air Raid Shelters

From the cover of Defiendete del Peligro Aero-Quimico
Mariano Barrasa, Juliàn Castresana. Toledo 1935.

Manuel Muñoz' report of what the municipal authorities
had achieved by the time the Generalitat, the autonomous
Government of Catalonia, created the Junta de Defensa
Passiva and took over ARP in the summer of 1937 will
perhaps help to show that Ramon Perera neither invented
the air raid shelters nor was solely responsible for their
construction. The report dates from August 1937.*

The Junta had been created the previous June and after
some insistence by the council and the CNT Manuel
Muñoz was accepted as a member in representation of the
council. Surprisingly, given the persecution not to say
elimination of the anarchists after the Barcelona May days,
he maintained this position until the end of the war.

Manuel had joined the city council in October 1936 when
the anarchists began to participate in formal government.
In November he was named as liaison with the Generalitat's
Department of Defense for questions of air raid protection
and very soon the construction of shelters was under his

Initially it was thought that basements, with a little
preparation, could provide sufficient protection during
the raids. So his department of Urban Planning and Public
organized the inspection of 17,000 buildings.
Only 700 were considered suitable and of these the
Generalitat quickly decreed a prohibition of the
use of
some (below banks) as shelters.

Stronghold evidently having a variety of meanings.

Underground "mine" tunnels were also considered
suitable for shelters so, besides preparation of the existing
metropolitan tube stations he overseered the construction
of 24 new tunnels of 100 metres each (for posterior use as
sewage tunnels) 14 of which had been completed by August

For the 600 or so shelters that were being built independently
by the people of Barcelona, Manuel's department offered
technical advice and subsidised the cost of labour and building
materials and most especially published the excellent manual
"Air Raid Shelters" with instructions on how to build them.
Many of the calculations on the destructive capacity of the
bombs and the type of construction necessary to resist them
are based on information provided by Swiss and French ARP
organizations. The Spanish military had also published
recommendations prior to the war.

After the first raids had shown the real effects of the bombs,
the council began the construction of a number of larger,
more resistent collective shelters below city squares in
the different districts of Barcelona. 11 were in construction
in the summer of '37. But by this time the increasing scarcity
of materials and reduction of available labour force because
of conscription were already seriously affecting progress in all
the shelters.

In his 17-page report Manuel Muñoz gives credit to all of the
many different people and organizations involved to date in
building of shelters and civil defence.

He, at least, knew that without the collective effort of every
one of them Barcelona's extraordinary achievement of over
1000 shelters would never have been possible.

*For those interested in consulting the report, the reference is:
Arxiu Administratiu
Caixa 21411 Carpeta 1.5