Tamara Bunke – a life given in the struggle for socialism

Red Youth salutes the revolutionary women of the world! Our young cadre will be publishing short pieces all this week to celebrate our revolutionary heroines in the run up to International Women’s Day. Today, our comrade Ed, aged 22 from Southampton, gives a Red Salute to Tamara Bunke.

Come and celebrate International Women’s Day this Sunday in Birmingham with the CPGB-ML and Red Youth at 274 Moseley Rd, Highgate, B12 0BS.

Heidi Tamara Bunke Bider, aka Guerrilla Tania, was born in Buenos Aires in Tamara Bunke1937. She was the daughter of a Polish jew and a German, who emigrated to Argentina to escape Nazi persecution.

Returning to Germany after the war when she was 15, and having been raised by parents who were both staunch communists, Tamara soon joined the country’s Socialist Unity party. Her outstanding linguistic ability in speaking Russian, English, Spanish and German caught the attention of the authorities in what was a rapidly-growing socialist state.

While studying political science at Berlin’s Humboldt University, Comrade Tamara was employed as an interpreter for visiting delegations from Latin America. This was how she met Che Guevara. As head of a trade delegation for Cuba’s newly socialist state, he visited Leipzig in 1960, and she was assigned as his assistant and translator.

Tamara, being a committed communist, was undoubtedly in awe of Comrade Guevara’s revolutionary credentials and his charisma – as many were and are still. The following year, Tamara traveled to Cuba, taking the name of Tania, and never returned to live in Germany.

Inspired by the idealism of the Cuban revolution, she sought out voluntary work, teaching and helped to build homes and schools in the countryside. Until, that is, she was given the option of receiving special training.

By then, Che had set his sights on spreading revolution far beyond Cuba’s shores in his drive for internationalism – to Africa and throughout Latin America. It was decided that Bolivia would become the next target for peasant and workers’ liberation. It was hoped that Bolivia’s central position would allow communism to spread into the five neighbouring countries of Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru and Chile.

Tamara entered the most secretive phase of her life, about which she could not tell even her parents, though she continued to write to them regularly. She adopted various guises. First she was Marta Iriarte – on a false passport provided by the Czech security services. Then she was Haydée Gonzalez, and later Vittoria Pancini – an Italian citizen travelling in Europe. She used these first three identities while perfecting the persona she would finally adopt – Laura Gutierrez Bauer, working as an undercover agent in Bolivia.

Throughout the spring of 1964, Tamara was hidden on a small farm on the outskirts of Prague, where she was schooled in the art of espionage, in preparation for infiltrating bourgeois society as Bauer in Bolivia’s administrative capital of La Paz. She arrived there in October 1964 with a brief to gather intelligence on Bolivia’s political elite and the strength of its armed forces.

She learnt that the son of the country’s army chief and junta head, General Alfredo Ovando Candia, was planning to study in Germany. After finding out where the general lived, she rented a room nearby and put a sign in the window advertising “German lessons”. The ploy worked: she started teaching the general’s son German.

Through him, she quickly secured an introduction to the general himself, and was then introduced to the country’s air-force commander, and later president, Rene Barrientos. Both men fell for her charms and took her to high-society parties.

Using the cover story that she was in Bolivia to study folklore, Tamara travelled the country to gauge the popular mood. She briefly entered into a marriage of convenience with another young student to gain Bolivian citizenship and make her position there more secure. But her main objective was assessing the country’s political and military elite.

She would continue to court Barrientos, and even went on holiday with him to Peru. However, when the fiercely anti-communist Barrientos discovered, through traitors and deserters from Guevara’s guerrilla force, that Tamara was spying for the Cuban revolutionaries, he ordered that the walls of her apartment be torn down, and in doing so discovered a compartment behind a wall where the radio equipment she used to send coded messages to Havana was hidden.

It later emerged that she had also been passing coded signals to Guevara’s revolutionary bands in the south. Her cover blown, Tamara swapped her urban disguise for battle fatigues and joined Che’s fighters. She was the only woman in his small force.

In April 1967, as the isolated band of a few dozen revolutionary guerrilla fighters increasingly succumbed to sickness and disease, Guevara separated them into two columns so that the weakest could travel more slowly as the rearguard. Tamara, who was suffering from a high fever and a leg injury, would remain in the rearguard with other ailing combatants, while Guevara and the others went on ahead.

Her column was ambushed on 31 August 1967 by CIA-backed Bolivian forces whilst crossing the Rio Grande. Waist deep in water, Tamara was struck by two bullets – one to her arm and the other her chest. She and most of her comrades were killed on the spot. When Fidel Castro heard of her martyrdom, he declared her ‘Tania the Guerrilla’, a Hero of the Cuban Revolution.

In 1998, Tamara’s remains were transferred to Cuba and were interred in the Che Guevara Mausoleum in the city of Santa Clara, alongside those of Che himself and several other guerrillas who had been killed during the Bolivian campaign.

Assata Shakur – black women in the fight for liberation and socialism

Red Youth salutes the revolutionary women of the world! Our young cadre will be publishing short pieces all this week to celebrate our revolutionary heroines in the run up to International Women’s Day. Today we give a Red Salute to Assata Shakur.

Come and celebrate International Womens Day this Sunday in Birmingham with the CPGB-ML and Red Youth at 274 Moseley Rd, Highgate, B12 0BS.

assata shakur

People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.

– Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur, who is now residing in Cuba and who remains on US imperialism’s list of the ‘most wanted’, has spent her entire adult life fighting imperialism and racism in the USA – a direct result of her involvement with the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army.

In her own words:

I am a 20th-century escaped slave. Because of  government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of colour. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.

She graduated from City College of New York and, at 23, she became involved with the Black Panther Party, helping to organise breakfast programmes for school children, before becoming a member of the Harlem branch of the Black Panther Party (BPP).

The BPP was an organisation dedicated to protecting black communities in the USA from police brutality and with an outspoken anti-imperialist, socialist political position, and it had set up social programmes which it called “survival programmes” to help its community.

These included the breakfast programme, medical clinics, a service to drive people to prisons to visit incarcerated family members (the US government continues to put people in prison many miles away from family as an added form of torture and an obstacle to visits), legal aid and posting bail.

The party was founded on an eclectic Black Panther newspaper Kim il Sungideological basis but it included many ideas and theories from Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao and Castro. Unsurprisingly in the context of the times, the influence of Mao Zedong and China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was strong, as was the party’s friendship with Kim il Sung’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which sheltered many escaped Panther members.

The BPP openly and repeatedly praised the socialist revolutions in Vietnam, Cuba and China. In its early years, the party also raised money to buy shotguns (which they openly carried while on patrol) by selling copies of Quotations of Chairman Mao.

Comrade Assata left the Black Panther Party in the tumultuous years that followed the McCarthyite political repression that the CIA, led by Hoover, unleashed on the black liberation and socialist movement under the codename Cointelpro, and which saw many Panthers summarily executed by the state. She would later join the Black Liberation Army.

As a result of defending herself from an assassination attempt by the state, Comrade Shakur was found guilty by the US courts of several crimes, including the killing of one New Jersey state trooper and the wounding of another. She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba in political asylum since 1984.

There have been multiple attempts to extradite her. In 1997, Carl Williams, superintendent of the New Jersey state police  wrote a letter to Pope John Paul II requesting him to raise the issue of Shakur’s extradition during his talks with President Fidel Castro.

Since 2005, the FBI has classified her Comrade Assata a ‘domestic terrorist’. In 2013, the FBI made Shakur the first woman to feature on its list of most wanted ‘terrorists’ and a $2m bounty was offered for her capture.

Comrade Assata Shakur, like thousands of other young revolutionary women in the 1960s – took a stand against the injustices of the imperialist system and has remained a firm anti-imperialist fighter until this day. A generation of young black Americans fought bravely in the ranks of the Black Panther Party and the other revolutionary organisations of those times and faced immense hardship and the brutality of the United States police and secret services.

Assata stands tall today as an example to a whole new generation of women: dare to struggle and dare to win!

Leila Khaled

Red Youth salutes the revolutionary women of the world! Our young cadre will be publishing short pieces all this week to celebrate our revolutionary heroines in the run up to International Women’s Day. Today, Comrade Adam, aged 12, discusses Leila Khaled.

Red Youth will be meeting to celebrate International Women’s Day on 9 March, at 1.00pm, at the CPGB-ML party centre 274 Moseley Road, Highgate, Birmingham.

In the beginning, all women had to prove that we could be equal to men in armed struggle. So we wanted to be like men – even in our appearance … I no longer think it’s necessary to prove ourselves as women by imitating men.

I have learned that a woman can be a fighter, a freedom fighter, a political activist, and that she can fall in love, and be loved, she can be married, have children, be a mother … Revolution must mean life also; every aspect of life.

– Leila Khaled

Leila Khaled is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). She was born on 9 April 1944 in Haifa, Palestine. She and her family fled to Lebanon during the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe), leaving her father behind.

At the age of 15, following in the footsteps of her brother, Leila joined the radical Arab Left Nationalist Movement, originally started in the late 1940s by Comrade George Habash. The Palestinian branch of this movement became the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after the 1967 Six-Day War.

Leila Khaled with portrait
Leila Khaled with a portrait of her younger self

Comrade Khaled came to public attention for her role in a 1969 hijacking of the TWA Flight 840, which aimed to publicise Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. On its way from Rome to Athens, she and her comrades diverted a plane to Damascus. She ordered the pilot to fly over Haifa, so she could see her birth place, which she could not return to. No one was injured, but the aircraft was blown up after all the hostages had disembarked.

After this high-profile operation, Leila underwent six plastic surgery operations on her nose and chin to conceal her identity and allow her to take part in a future hijacking – and because she did not want to wear the face of an icon.

On 6 September 1970, Leila and Patrick Arguello, a Nicaraguan, attempted the hijack of Israeli El-al flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York as part of the Dawson Field hijackings – a series of almost simultaneous hijackings carried out by the PLFP. The attack was foiled when Israeli sky marshals killed Arguello and overpowered Khaled. Although she was carrying two hand grenades at the time, Khaled had received very strict instructions not to threaten passengers on the civilian flight.

The pilot diverted the aircraft to Heathrow airport in London, where Leila was delivered to Ealing police station. On 1 October, the British government released her as part of a prisoner exchange. The next year, the PFLP abandoned the tactic of hijacking, although splinter movements continued to hijack airplanes.

Leila Khaled in Damascus
Leila Khaled, defiant, in Damascus

Speaking about Palestinian freedom fighters such as comrade Khaled, and the many martyrs and soldiers of the PFLP and PLO, the legendary George Habash said these words:

I remember each of the martyrs, one by one, and without exception – those martyrs to whom we are indebted, for whom we must continue the struggle, holding fast to the dream and holding fast to hope, and protecting the rights of the people for whom they shed their blood. Their children and their families have a right to be honoured and cared for. This is the least we can do for those blazing stars in the skies of our homeland.

I also remember now the heroic prisoners in the jails of the occupation and the prisons of the Palestinian Authority – those militants who remind us morning and night of our patriotic duty by the fact that they are still there behind bars and by the fact that the occupation still squats on our chests. Each prisoner deserves the noblest signs of respect …

Now permit me to express my gratitude to all the comrades who have worked with me and helped me, whether in the Arab Nationalist Movement or in the Popular Front. They stood beside me during the hardest conditions and the darkest of times, and they were a great help and support for me. Without them I would not have been able to carry out my responsibilities. They have been true comrades, in all that the word implies.

Those comrades helped to create a congenial atmosphere, an environment of political, theoretical, and intellectual interaction that enabled me to do all that was required. Those comrades have a big place in my heart and mind. I offer all my thanks and appreciation to each one of them by name. In addition, to the comrades who vigilantly guarded me, looking out for my safety, all these long years, I offer my gratitude …

As a last word, I feel it necessary to say that I know well that the goals for which I worked and struggled have not yet been attained. And I cannot say how or when they will be attained. But on the other hand, I know in light of my study of the march of history in general, and of Arab and Palestinian history in particular, that they will be attained.

In spite of this bitter truth, I leave my task as General Secretary of the Front with a contented mind and conscience. My conscience is content because I did my duty and worked with the greatest possible effort and with complete and deep sincerity. My mind is content because throughout my working years, I continually based myself on the practice of self-criticism.

It is important to say also that I will pay close attention to all your observations and assessments of the course taken by the Popular Front while I was its General Secretary. I must emphasise that with the same close attention, if not with greater attention, I will follow and take to heart the observations and assessments of the Palestinian and Arab people on this course and my role in it.

My aim in this closing speech has been to say to you – and not only to you, but to all the detainees, or those who experienced detention, to the families of the martyrs, to the children of the martyrs, to those who were wounded, to all who sacrificed and gave for the cause – that your sacrifice has not been in vain. The just goals and legitimate rights which they have struggled and given their lives for will be attained, sooner or later. I say again that I don’t know when, but they will be attained.

And my aim, again and again, is to emphasise the need for you to persist in the struggle to serve our people, for the good of all Palestinians and Arabs – the good that lies in a just and legitimate cause, as it does in the realisation of the good for all those who are oppressed and wronged.

You must always be of calm mind, and of contented conscience, with a strong resolve and a steel will, for you have been and still are in the camp of justice and progress, the camp whose just goals will be attained and which will inevitably attain its legitimate rights. For these are the lessons of history and reality, and no right is lost as long as there is someone fighting for it.

Khaled continued to return to Britain for speaking engagements until as late as 2002, although she was refused a visa by the British embassy in 2005 to address a meeting at the Féile an Phobail in Belfast, where she was invited as a speaker.

She is now married to the physician Fayez Rashid Hilal, and today lives with their two sons Bader and Bashar in Gaza, Palestine, where she currently serves on the Palestinian National Council.

Leila Khaled on the PNC
Leila Khaled currently serves on the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation

Comrade Leila was the subject of a film entitled Leila Khaled, Hijacker. The documentary film Hijacker – The Life of Leila Khaled was directed by Palestinian filmmaker, Lina Makboul.

Laila Khaled will always be remembered as a freedom fighter who stood up against the oppression of her country’s people. She fought against Israel and imperialism and for the liberation of Palestine.

Clara Zetkin

Red Youth salutes the revolutionary women of the world! Our young cadre will be publishing short pieces all this week to celebrate our revolutionary heroines in the run up to International Womens Day. Today Birmingham comrade Phil, aged 22, discusses Clara Zetkin.

Red Youth will be meeting to celebrate International Women’s Day on 9 March, at 1.00pm, at the CPGB-ML party centre 274 Moseley Road, Highgate, Birmingham.

Women’s propaganda must touch upon all those questions which are of great importance to the general proletarian movement. The main task is, indeed, to awaken the women’s class consciousness and to incorporate them into the class struggle.

Clara Zetkin

Born as Clara Eißner, the eldest of three children in Saxony, Germany in 1857, Clara Zetkin lived a life of struggle – for socialism, for women’s rights and against fascism.

Her mother already had contacts with the emerging bourgeois women’s movement at the time and Clara herself became politically active from 1874, joining the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1878. However, Bismarck’s draconian ‘Socialist Law’, which banned extra-parliamentary political activities, forced her into exile in 1882, first to Zurich and then to Paris.

During her time in the French capital, she adopted the name of her life partner, the Russian Marxist Ossip Zetkin, with whom she had two children. There she also played a significant role in the founding of the Second International in 1889, which would two-and-a-half decades later so disgracefully collapse over the question of the first world war – splitting the socialist movement and for the first time clearly showing the reactionary and chauvinist nature of what we now know as social democracy.

Clara Zetkin

From early on in their time with the SPD, Clara Zetkin and comrade Rosa Luxemburg were part of the inner-party opposition, which came to be known as the Spartacus League (Spartakusbund) and consisted of fierce critics of Eduard Bernstein’s reformist views. She was among those consistently arguing against Bernstein and his followers in the revisionism debate.

Having returned to Germany in 1890, Zetkin worked as editor and publisher of The Equality (Die Gleichheit), a proletarian women’s magazine. She proved to be a brilliant journalist, increasing the paper’s circulation from 11,000 to 67,000 between 1903 and 1906.

When she joined the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) in 1917, she was ‘relieved’ of her duties at the publication for petty political reasons. In 1919, she finally joined the newly-formed Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and started to publish a new magazine, called Die Kommunistin, meaning ‘the female communist’.

In addition to her publications work, Clara Zetkin was one of the first few women deputies at both regional and national parliaments, taking advantage of the small concessions made by the bourgeoisie to advance women’s rights in practice and push towards their representation in public life.

Nevertheless, she also was a staunch critic of the bourgeois women’s movement. In a speech in 1899 at the founding congress of the Second International, Comrade Zetkin criticised demands for formal political rights such as that of access to the professions and equal education for women (while perfectly legitimate and important) as not going far enough, and argued that full social and economic emancipation would only be possible under socialism.

In 1911, Comrade Zetkin was also heavily involved in the birth of International Women’s Day – the day we will soon be celebrating. After an encouraging start in central Europe, especially in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany, Women’s Day spread around the world. Indeed, demonstrations marking Women’s Day were instrumental in sparking the February Revolution in Russia in 1917.

In 1932, after being re-elected to the German parliament (Reichstag) at the age of 75, Comrade Clara used her speech at the opening of parliament to passionately denounce the policies of Hitler and his thugs. After the National Socialists came to power in 1933 and banned the KPD (having blamed the Reichstag fire on them), Comrade Zetkin was forced into exile once again – this time choosing to live in the Soviet Union.

Comrade Clara died soon after, on 20 July 1933, at the age of 76, and the urn containing her ashes was personally carried to the Kremlin Wall Necropolis by Josef Stalin.

Clara Zetkin

Dolores Ibárruri

Red Youth salutes the revolutionary women of the world! Our young cadre will be publishing short pieces all this week to celebrate our revolutionary heroines in the run up to International Women’s Day. Today, Austin, aged 15 from Leeds, discusses Dolores Ibárruri.

Red Youth will be meeting to celebrate International Women’s Day on 9 March, at 1.00pm, at the CPGB-ML party centre 274 Moseley Road, Highgate, Birmingham.

No passaran! (They shall not pass!)

– La Pasionaria

Dolores Ibárruri was an inspirational leader, a revolutionary fighter and an influential speaker who was heavily involved in the resistance movement against the fascist rebellion by General Franco that sparked the Spanish Civil War.

Dolores Ibárruri

Dolores was born in Gallarta, Spain on 9 December 1895 into a family of miners. She experienced horrendous poverty as a child and her dream of becoming a teacher was never realised, owing to her parents’ inability to finance her education. Instead, she became a seamstress and then a housemaid.

Her husband, an active trade unionist and revolutionary socialist, was imprisoned for his part in the general strike of 1917, and, as a consequence, her financial situation deteriorated. She spent her nights reading Karl Marx and other books she found in the library of the local workers’ centre, and his works influenced her to become a communist.

In 1920, Dolores was elected onto the provincial committee of the newly-founded Basque Communist Party and, ten years later, she was promoted to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). During these years, Dolores had six children. Of her five daughters, four died very young. Her only son died at the battle of Stalingrad, leaving just one daughter to survive into adulthood and old age.

Comrade Ibárruri was a regular writer for the party’s newspaper, Mundo Obrero, signing off her works with the pseudonym La Pasionaria (Passionflower) – a name she coined when she wrote her first article against religious hypocrisy for a miners’ newspaper in 1918. She used her journalism as a platform to campaign against the unfair treatment of women in the country and to improve their lot through socialist revolution. In 1931, she was appointed the paper’s editor and moved to Madrid.

That year also saw the beginning of the second republic in Spain. King Alfonso III left the country when a majority of seats at the election were won by anti-monarchist candidates. During the first five years of the republic, communists continued to be persecuted, however, particularly after the fascistic, semi-feudal coalition of right-wing forces that made up CEDA won the 1933 election. Dolores was jailed four times in this period.

In 1936, the policy of the united front was adopted by communists all over Europe, and the Spanish Popular Front emerged victorious in the February election. The communists gained enough votes for a single seat in parliament – and it was taken by Dolores. The Popular Front’s electoral programme had included a commitment to freeing all political prisoners, so, without waiting for any other authorisation Comrade Ibárruri went straight to the jail to see her comrades released:

As soon as the victory of the Popular Front in the elections became known I, already an elect member of parliament, showed up at the prison of Oviedo the next morning, went to the office of the director, who had fled in a mad panic because he had behaved like a genuine criminal toward the Asturian prisoners interned after the revolution of October 1934, and there I found the administrator, to whom I said, ‘Give me the keys because the prisoners must be released this very day.’

He replied, ‘I have not received any orders,’ and I answered, ‘I am a member of the republic’s parliament, and I demand that you hand over the keys immediately to set the prisoners free.’ He handed them over and I assure you that it was the most thrilling day of my activist life, opening the cells and shouting, ‘Comrades, everyone get out!’ Truly thrilling.

I did not wait for parliament to sit or for the release order to be given. I reasoned: ‘We have run on the promise of freedom for the prisoners of the revolution of 1934. We won – today the prisoners go free.’

However, in the face of the newly-forged alliance between social democrats, republicans and communists, the fascists struck back, backed up by military aid from Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. They launched a full-scale rebellion under the leadership of General Franco against the newly-elected progressive government.

Imperialism, which was seriously threatened by the developments in republican Spain, sought to strangle the country’s progressive forces by sending aid to the fascists while preventing aid getting through to the government. In this way, it hoped to hold back the rising tide of working-class militancy and communism.

At a time when fascism – the most nakedly brutal form of monopoly capitalism, in which all pretence of democracy was being discarded in favour of an iron dictatorship aimed at keeping down the workers’ anger at a time of deep capitalist crisis – was on the rise and spreading throughout Europe, the western media was publishing propaganda against, no, not Germany, Italy or Spain, but against the Soviet Union.

The ‘collectivisation famine’ lie was published in 1935 by the Hearst press at a time when socialism was proving itself to be the only sane solution to the worsening capitalist crisis and the rise of fascism. Instead of hailing the achievements of the industrialisation and collectivisation programmes in the USSR under Stalin’s leadership, the ‘democratic’ capitalists chose to demonise socialism and to support the rise of fascism.

The British, French and US imperialists, while claiming to uphold democracy, refused to help the Spanish government against Franco. They drew up a ‘non-intervention’ agreement that pretended to be neutral, but was in reality aimed at cutting off supplies to the republic. This did not help Dolores and the revolutionaries in Spain who were defending their nation against the fascists.

However, with a little help from its friends – namely, the Soviet Union and Mexico – the People’s Army (the resistance movement formed by the anti-fascists in Spain) was supported by the formation of the International Brigades.

The call went out from the Comintern (the Communist International) to revolutionaries in Europe, the Americas and all over the world that volunteers were needed to fight with their brothers and sisters in Spain against fascism. Meanwhile, Comrade Ibárruri was very active on the committee that transferred funds from the Comintern to the republican army.

As well as giving every possible support to the formation of the brigades, the Soviet Union helped directly by sending food, medicine, equipment and advisors to the resistance forces, even as it was also busy preparing itself for the biggest and most catastrophic war the world had ever seen. The Soviet Union’s leaders understood that the war in Spain and the rise of fascism were both symptoms of the deepening capitalist crisis, and that the crisis was bound to lead to a bigger conflict if not stopped by revolution.

Dolores Speech

Throughout the civil war, Dolores was extremely active, and she coined many of the republicans’ most famous slogans. As chief propagandist for the republican forces, she ended a radio speech in 1936 with the famous words, “The fascists shall not pass! No pasaran!” This passionate slogan became the battle cry for the republican army, who defended the city for three long years.

Later, at a meeting for the women of Spain, she famously stated: “It is better to be the widows of heroes than the wives of cowards!” And, in 1936, at rallies in both France and Belgium to mobilise support for the republican army, she cried:

The Spanish people would rather die on its feet than live on its knees!

However, the republican army was threatened from within by the formation of POUM (Worker’s Party of Marxist Unification), a coalition of Trotskyite and anarchistic parties. The POUM objected vigorously to the influence of the Soviet Union within the republican army, and did much to undermine the discipline of the republican forces. POUM was dubbed the fascist “fifth column” after Emilio Mola, a fascist general, stated in an interview in 1936 that he had four columns of soldiers heading towards Madrid and a fifth one (the POUM) behind enemy lines.

The POUM’s endless demands for ultra-revolutionary sounding measures such as self-governming workers’ co-ops in the cities and immediate collectivisation in the countryside were not only a diversion from the urgent struggle against fascism but an outright service to fascism. Trotskyism in the Service of Franco, written by George Soria and based on first-hand observation and on the study and analysis of official documents and papers, explains how this came about.

In the end, the republican army could not hold off the might of Franco’s army, which was financed heavily by Germany and Italy, and the republicans eventually lost the civil war. On 1 November 1939, Dolores made a powerful speech to over 13,000 people at a farewell parade in Barcelona expressing her gratitude to all the volunteers who had come to the aid of the republican government from the people of Spain:

From all peoples, from all races, you came to us like brothers, like sons of immortal Spain; and in the hardest days of the war, when the capital of the Spanish republic was threatened, it was you, gallant comrades of the International Brigades, who helped save the city with your fighting enthusiasm, your heroism and your spirit of sacrifice …

Today many are departing … You can go proud. You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic example of democracy’s solidarity and universality in the face of the vile and accommodating spirit of those who interpret democratic principles with their eyes on hoards of wealth or corporate shares which they want to safeguard from all risk.

At the end of the war, Dolores fled to the Soviet Union, where she lived a happy life, despite the difficulties and tragedies of the war.

Her son fought for the Red Army but sadly died at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942. Delores remained active within the PCE and became the party’s secretary general in May 1944. She lived in Moscow for many years, receiving the Lenin Peace Prize in 1964 and the Order of Lenin Prize in 1965.

La Pasionaria

When General Franco died, Dolores moved back to Spain and in 1977 she was once more elected as a deputy to the Cortes (Spanish parliament).

On 12 November 1989, at the age of 93, Dolores Ibárruri died of pneumonia. Although only one of her daughters survived her, her legacy lives on in countless generations of the men and women workers all over the world that she inspired with her bravery, her steadfastness and her indomitable spirit.

La Pasionaria is remembered as a woman who never capitulated to fascism; who fought for rights for women and who tied those rights to the need for socialism. She was a revolutionary fighter, an activist, a writer and a speaker. Her inspiration is a shining star whose light guides us in our struggle against imperialism and reaction, and for liberation and socialism.

La Pasionaria statue
La Pasionaria statue in Glasgow, Scotland