From Wed Dec 26 08:00:06 2001
Date: Tue, 25 Dec 2001 01:28:17 -0600 (CST)
Subject: As Time Goes By... - Granma
Article: 132648
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

As time goes by: Spanish Civil War vets

By Mireya Castaneda, Granma International, 20 December 2001

IN 1938, Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria, said farewell to the International Brigades that fought alongside the Republicans in Spain. As time goes by and the wounds of war are staunched, we will tell our children of the Brigades. We will tell how these people left everything to come here, telling us, ‘We are here because Spain's cause is ours.’

And that is what happened. Today, 65 years after that fight against fascism, this was confirmed to Granma International by a frail, white-haired 86-year-old man who did not want to miss the opportunity of participating in the conference entitled One Hundred Years of Pablo. The event will allow us to understand better a man of his times, who fought for his ideals and on the same battlefield - Pablo de la Torriente Brau.

Moe Fishman, general secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Veterans' Association, was happy to accept the invitation from Vmctor Casaus, the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Center's director. Fishman arrived with a documentary filmmaker to record the meeting and, as he explained, to make a short film to show to a wide section of the U.S. public.

Above all, he recalled that 3,000 U.S. citizens fought voluntarily in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39)p; 900 died and the survivors founded their association in 1939.

Our program was simple, to help each other, because we received nothing from the government. It viewed us with suspicion. It even wanted to prevent our participation. They passed a law stating that we would lose our citizenship if we went. But 3,000 left despite that threat.

Fishman, a good conversationalist, was only 21 when he volunteered. Lack of money had made him forget his dreams of university studies. I had to look for work. My parents had a laundry, so I knew the trade and worked in a large factory. I was a Young Communist League member, and in 1935 I organized a trade union in the factory. The next year I left for Spain.

Joining the Brigades was something natural for Fishman. I was part of the revolutionary movement and already knew of fascism and its dangers since 1932, when Hitler lost the elections in Germany, and then Hindenburg appointed him chancellor. Naturally I knew about Mein Kampf and his racist policies against the Jews and what he was thinking of doing.

He pointed out that, unfortunately, nowadays many people think that racism was fascism's only evil, forgetting that it was an attack on every single person's democratic rights, especially those of the working class. He pointed out that this is still the case in all countries where fascists are in power.

I went to Spain because I had the chance to do something against this.

Fishman was a member of the Washington Battalion, the second to be formed with U.S. participation, but this was decimated and then integrated into the Lincoln Brigade. I joined the fighting at the battle of Brunete; our objective was to take the pressure off Madrid. I was wounded on July 5, 1937, and could not fight again, my leg never recovered [the consequences are still visible today] and I was sent home in 1938.

All the International Brigades left Spain in September 1938. We were disenchanted, from the point of view that we wanted to beat the fascists, but we also felt happy because of the way the Spanish people bade us farewell, with love because we had gone to offer help when they were desperately fighting for the Republic.

On their return to the United States, the veterans formed an association and have had a wonderful history of struggle. In the McCarthy era, the central struggle was defending the U.S. people's democratic rights, and the association played an important part in the civil rights movement. (The Lincoln Brigade was the first fully integrated military organization in U.S. history, with black officers and sergeants, something that didn't happen in the U.S. Army until 1948.) They also demonstrated against the war in Viet Nam.

Fishman says that they have now reached a difficult moment. All the association's members still have not been able to meet together, but 11 of them went to Spain for the International Brigade's 65th anniversary and they were asked for a declaration, which they issued.

The text recognizes the pain of the September 11 attack victims, affirming that they are not in agreement with those attacks, because terrorism is not a political movement and will not solve political problems. Their declaration states that the terrorists responsible should be tried in an international court and not in U.S. military courts, as Bush has proposed.

But there's more. The veterans are very worried by the way in which the Bush administration is attacking civil liberties in the United States and we believe that many of these actions are unconstitutional. This is why we are encouraging progressive forces to fight those arbitrary measures.

The veterans also oppose the war against Afghanistan, taking part in peace demonstrations in New York and other cities, although these have been small, because war fervor still runs high, but this will pass and Bush will make more mistakes and the U.S. public will understand that the road to war will not solve the crucial problem of ending terrorism.

Returning to the more historic theme of Pablo de la Torriente Brau's centennial, Moe Fishman recalled that he did not know any of the Cuban fighters in Spain personally. In reality, as the Cubans spoke Spanish they automatically mixed more with the Spanish. The Republican Army badly needed officers. The Cubans distinguished themselves well.

Now he says he is happy at being able to come to Cuba. It's a marvelous example of international solidarity that we have been invited to take part in the Pablo de la Torriente Brau centenary celebration. He asked that the conversation be a short one, because he didn't want to miss the speeches, in case he wants to write a book later.

As well as attending the conference, Fishman will meet with Cuban veterans of the Spanish Civil War and inaugurate the exhibition The Spirit Lives, consisting of 35 photos by anonymous photographers and 10 by Sam Walker, [sic; see below] who fought in the Lincoln Brigade. The work has been sent by New York's Puffin Gallery.

The spirit lives, as La Pasionaria has already observed. As time goes by...

soruce - Bill Koehnlein <
December 21, 2001

To the Editor, Granma International:

Thanks so much for your article, As Time Goes By, in the December 20 issue of Granma Internacional (English edition).

I would like to alert you to a mistake. At the end of the article you mention Sam Walker, a Lincoln Brigade vet and photographer whose pictures are in The Spirit Lives exhibition.

The man you are referring to is Sam Walters.

Sam indeed did fight in Spain, and he remained true to the cause until his dying days. Sam was a lifelong communist and an ardent supporter of the Cuban Revolution, and even when he was well over 80 years old he showed up at meetings and demonstrations for social justice all over New York. Sam was a fighter, and never wavered in the struggle.

When he became ill in 1999 his wish was to visit Cuba one last time (he had made several trips to the island during the course of the Revolution), and in November he and his long-time companera, Tibby Brooks, arrived in Havana, where Sam received--as Tibby described it--the best medical care possible.

Sam died in Havana on December 5, 1999 and is now in the Cristobal Colon cemetary in Havana.

Granma Internacional readers might be interested in knowing that Sam's Spanish Civil War photographs had been severely damaged over time and that they were lovingly restored by New York photographer Diane Greene Lent and later exhibited at the Brecht Forum in New York. These photographs then moved to the Puffin Foundation and are now in its permanent collection.

In solidarity!

Bill Koehnlein
New York, NY