Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Feast

Jean Michel Folon. The Feast.

Last Friday the UN reported that world hunger has
reached a record high of one billion people.

One-sixth of the world's population.

"The first time in human history that we have so many
hungry people in the world."

And "a serious risk" to world peace and security, said the
director general of the FAO.

Needless to say the majority are not from the "developed"
countries (the report cites a mere fifteen million).

I get repetitive but no doubt NATO (see below June 10th)
not to say total inanition of the risk, will justify their
scandalous budget and save us from the starving hordes.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Flix Shelter

Miguel Carrillo and Oscar Bosch
Flix June 2008

We also wanted to see the Civil War air raid shelter that
had recently been refurbished and opened to the public.

But weren't sure where it was.

Miguel went into the market hall to ask and, one of those
lucky coincidences, found one of the Flix town councillors,
Sr. Oscar Bosch, having breakfast.*

He was kind enough to leave his family and meal to come
outside to show us where to go. During the conversation
I had an idea. Cities and towns are always being twinned for
cultural exchanges - why not twin our air raid shelter in
Poble Sec with the one in Flix? Sr Bosch was very open to the
idea. calling cards were exchanged and we all promised to work
on the idea and get in touch after the summer.

We left in search of the shelter.

*For those visiting Spain, it is often a very good idea to eat in
the cafés and little restaurants inside or around the markets.

Saturday 20th June

I have just read that Sr Bosch has just been elected Lord
Mayor of Flix. Congratulations!

The subterranean shelter that runs between carrer
St Josep and plaça de la Música. Flix. June 2008

The shelter, one of several documented in the town, was
locked - visits have to be booked in advance.

No matter, there would be occasions in the future to visit,
we thought, once our twinning project got off the ground.

But I took some photos through the railings of the door.
You can just see the typical zigzagging of the tunnel,
designed to minimize the effects of possible bomb blasts,
and the subsequent shock waves and fragmentation.

Flix was one of the first towns in Catalonia to suffer an attack
from the air.

It was a strategic target with its hydro-electric power station,
the electrochemical plant which the fascists said was
manufacturing mustard gas (thought the experts in this field
were Franco's German allies) and the iron bridge was an
important transit point for troops and supplies across the Ebro

On the night of 23rd february 1937 a raid on the chemical factory
part of which had been converted to a military hospital, and the
town began. It lasted four hours. Eight dead, numerous injured
and a terrified civilian population that took to the caves in the

We, the lucky ones who have never lived a war, are so used to the
virtual experience via assorted screens it's hard to imagine the
horror and the panic these first air raids caused. Not surprisingly,
the town with a population, then, of around 3,300 quickly organized
the construction of eight shelters.

What has been a little surprising is the success of my idea to twin
the shelters. But then Flix seems to be a town with a sensitivity to
historical memory that dates from well before the recent vogue to
recuperate the Republican experience in the Civil War - just the
date of the installation of the monument to the International
Brigades, 1990, is indicative. Most of Catalonia at the time was
more concerned with the imminent celebration of the Barcelona
Olympic Games.

But then Flix seems to display a felicitous good taste in its choice
of lord mayors. Information above on the February air raid is
from the book Alemanys al'Ebre by the historian, and previous
lord mayor of Flix, Pere Muñoz.

Next Saturday 27th at 12 o' clock there will be an inaugural act
at Refugi 307 in Poble Sec to celebrate the twinning of the

Thursday, 18 June 2009


Stork nesting. Flix. June 2008

Shelter from the Storm

Flix is a small town.

On the Ebre river in Catalonia.

Where so many died that summer of 1938.

The battle lost, here, against fascism.

I am privileged.

My life always lived at a safe distance from conflicts.

That continue.

I am privileged.

I have a student, a friend, Miguel, who took me, 70 years later,
to find the memories.

The forgotten battlefields.

Remembered friends.

Wild rosemary in the hot blue afternoon.

So silent

In this sunlight

There are no bombs now

To stop

The storks nesting.

Inscription on the base of the monument to the International
Brigades. Flix. June 2008.

We had gone to Flix to photograph the monument to the
memory of the Italian (and other) antifascist volunteers
for an exhibition Miguel was preparing on the Battle of the

The inscription reads:


Here, on the Ebro

Antifascist volunteers from Italy
And from all over the world
Fought beside the Spanish people
For Justice, Liberty and Democracy
In the last great battle of the Republican Army


At the foot of the monument there is a commemorative plaque,
installed 15 years later, in homage to Milton Wolff, who died
last year, and the Lincoln Brigade.

In recent years he and other surviving members of the
International Brigades had returned to Spain for diffferent
acts in recognition and celebration of their solidarity.



Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Putting out the fire with gasoline

Duality of Humanity
Shepard Fairey

"Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning"

Hermann Göring.

Last April, in Strasbourg, they celebrated the 60th Anniversary
Summit of NATO.

With pomp and ceremony and Obama.

And riot police armed to the teeth.

Because members of anti-war and peace movements from
19 different countries had planned a counter summit with
cultural events and demonstrations in protest as they believe
that NATO has become the "key vehicle for the US and its allies
to pursue their wars."

And sell themselves the arms they produce.

Only the violent protesters got media coverage.

Of course.

One has to justify the €150 million cost of policing the 3-day

Some figures from the NATO Defence Expenditure Report
(Estimated for 2007)

  • USA.......... 545,328,000,000 dollars
  • France........ 44,283,000,000 euros
  • UK............. 31,629,000,000 pounds
  • Germany...... 30,739,000,000 euros
  • Spain.......... 12,771,000,000 euros

Monday, 8 June 2009

Guns and Butter

John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld).


"We have no butter... but I ask you, would you rather have
guns or butter?"

Hermann Göring.

According to the Stockholm peace institute SIPRI

in a press release today

global military spending reached a record $1,464bn in

"The global financial crisis has yet to have an impact on major
arms companies' revenues, profits and order backlogs."

Oh I'm so relieved, thought we'd all be out on the streets soon
because of the crisis.