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Why we must keep alive the memory of the brave comrades who fought against fascism in Spain

THERE is a famous often-used quote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” 

That sentiment is the reason the wider labour movement continue to hold International Brigade Memorial events all over the country. 
On October 6 in Fife, we held another event to commemorate the disbandment of the International Brigade. We were joined by members of volunteers’ families, Labour councillors, trade union activists and members of the public.

We did this not just to remember the sacrifice made by all the brave men and women who went to Spain but to remember why they went. We hope to keep this history alive and pass the lessons learned to the next generation. 

“We fight to free Madrid as the first step to freeing Spain. We fight to free Spain as the first step towards freeing the world of fascism.” (Orders of the Day 15th Brigade, July 5 1937, the day before the battle of Brunete)

We are seeing a rise of the far right in this country, where National Action members are being arrested for terrorism charges. And where once the far right could only muster a few hundred to their rallies, the EDL/SDL, Football Lads Alliance and Britain First are now able to hold rallies of 15,000. 

In Europe we have fascists marching in Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Austria, Sweden and Greece and neonazis are winning elections and some hold positions in government. 

That is why it is so important to remember the International Brigades. These men and women recognised the dangers of the rise of fascism in ’20s and ’30s and we must learn and recognise the dangers today if it is left unchecked and unopposed. 

Communists, socialists and anarchists from all over the world went to Spain to defend not just the legitimate government but to defend democracy against a fascist dictator. 

They went because their own governments had turned a blind eye to the German nazis and Italian fascists who were pouring in troops and arms in support of the fascist Franco, ably supported by the Portuguese government. 

In Spain the German generals honed their tactics for the coming invasions of Poland, France, the USSR and the whole of Europe and north Africa. 

We particularly remembered all the comrades from Fife who put their lives on the line to defend Spain against fascism. We paid homage to all the communities in Fife who raised funds to help the families of volunteers and collected clothes and other items to send to Spain.

There have been memorial events in Kirkcaldy since 1980, when the memorial was first erected. It is important that this continues after we have gone. 

This is an important part of our working-class history and needs to be remembered and celebrated. 

It is up to us all to keep alive the memories and names of all these brave comrades. No pasaran!

Tam Kirby is chair of Fife Trades Union Council.

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