In Celebration of the Peace-Loving Fighters ; Michael Glover Is Moved by a New Spanish Civil War Exhibition

Article excerpt

The Spanish Civil War, that great left-wing cause of the 1930s, was a war about justice, and about the need to defend a fragile, young democracy. Fifty thousand men and women volunteers to fight in the International Brigades against General Franco and the Fascists. They came from many European countries, including England , France, Germany and Italy - and from as far afield as America. The young Ernest Hemingway, who reported on the war for the North American News Association, described it as a crusade in For Whom The Bell Tolls. Edward Heath, then an Oxford student, went as an observer. Jack Jones, future leader of the TGWU, was wounded in battle. The artist Paul Hogarth drove a lorry as a 16-year-old volunteer. Michael Portillo's mother set up homes in England for Basque children forced into exile by the conflict. Innumerable artists and intellectuals wrote, painted and propagandised about it, and defended the cause of Republican Spain on the field of battle - George Orwell, Arthue Koestler, Federico Garcia Lorca, Stephen Spender.

On one side stood the fledgling republican democracy of Spain, and on the other the dark forces of Fascism led by General Franco and supported by Germany and Italy. This winter the Spanish Civil War (1936-9) is being remembered in an ambitious exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. It takes in a huge range of responses to the conflict - from diaries, campaign medals and letters from the humblest combatant, to posters, banners and artworks by Picasso, Mir and Magritte - and even the sumptuous mantilla of General Franco, lined with fur at the neck. …