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Remembering Spain, Remembering Heroes

category north america / mexico | history | news report author Saturday January 27, 2007 08:55author by MB - Capital Terminus Collective, Atlanta, Georgia, USA Report this post to the editors

George Sossenko
George Sossenko

This Veterans Day seemed to be like any other. As a veteran, I am used to being bombarded with flag waving WWII clips that stream across our TV sets, giving only reactionary glory to instill patriotic emotion that seems to validate the decisions of our leaders who have never even served in combat. Would this year be any different?

Fortunately this year was special: at the newly organized Madratz info shop in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, you could hear the stories and voice of a true freedom fighter, Spanish Civil war veteran, George Sossenko.

Following an introduction by Mr. Sossenko, who gave his assessment of current events, a movie “Land and Freedom” was presented. After the film George- who volunteered in the International Brigade of the Spanish republic at the age of 16 in 1936- gave a touching description of his experiences in the War: “We went there wanting nothing in return. We went with our hearts and our ideals and gained Spain,” George said. “To this day the people of Spain thank us for our contribution and sacrifice. All we can say is, No, we thank you the people, and we thank Spain.”

After WWI, many European countries were devastated and much of the working class subjected to complete despotism. In Spain the King and the church owned 70% of all the land, and many people were left to work in the factories under inhuman conditions. During this time no employment/labor laws, healthcare or set wages existed. After a few failed attempts, in 1931 a democratic election took place to form a republic. Soon after the election the newly formed government put into place radical legislation reform that favored the peasants and anarcho-syndicalist trade unions. This set off the secession of Franco and the Spanish army, funded by the church and king, thus setting off a civil war which began in 1936 and lasted to ‘39.

George Sossenko came from France to join the International Brigades, and later joined the Durruti Column (CNT). Along with the International Brigades, the anarcho-syndicalist trade union Conferacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) drew on working men and woman to form an armed front. Some other fronts that represented the seats in the Spanish parliament and trade unions were the AFI (joined with CNT) Poum (Workers Party) UGT (Marxist Trade Union). Military aid also came from Mexico and Russia.

Many brave men and woman, like Mr. Sossenko, came to the aid of the Spanish to fight for a free, democratic Spain. With little or no military training, these men and woman fought valiantly. To the surprise of Hitler and Franco they won many battles, and for a time seemed to be winning the war. “Many of us were only given five bullets and a quick lesson on how to shoot,” said Mr. Sossenko of the training they received.

The West turned a blind eye to the pleas of the Spanish people. Stalin’s Russia played both sides for political opportunism: in time, Russian aid slowly came to a stop, till the advent of the complete takeover by the Russian Popular Army. The working class fighters could only hold out so long. The United States, along with other industrialized countries, continued to give Franco oil and supplies. Russia withdrew giving aid to the front in fear that the anarchists would be successful. This, in addition to internal political problems (likely set off by the Stalinists) led to Franco’s victory.

To this day the Spanish Civil war sets a fire burning for freedom in many hearts the world over. In 1998 the Spanish government, along with the king, made honorary citizens of all the foreign men and woman who fought in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. Many monuments have been erected in their honor, including the Lincoln Brigade monument in San Francisco.

On this Veterans Day we remember what it is to fight for true freedom. In the words of Fellow Worker Sossenko “We must fight; we must never quit. They call us unpatriotic because we do not support a war for capitalist gain. I say we are the patriots, who stand and fight for true freedom.” MB

Excerpted from Anarchist Atlanta #4, published November of 2006

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