Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 1, No. 10 June 8, 1938
Extremes in Spain — The Beginning — And the End
Extremes in Spain
The Beginning — And the End
"I went to Spain because I hated Fascism, but it was only after fighting there that I realised the depth of my hatred." said Mr. F. Patterson. International Brigade Member, in an interview with "Salient." And Pat ought to know—he helped to storm the Aleanzar, retreated 800 miles from Toledo to Madrid, and assisted in the defence of Madrid, seeing most of the worst part of the fighting. But "Salient" wanted some new points of view—it wanted information concerning Franco's fried nuns and priests, and also wanted Pat's opinion on the probable result of the war.
"In 1931." said Pat. "when the first Republican Government of Spain was returned to power. Its first laws were that all workers on the land should be paid in wages and not commodities and fixed a minimum wage; that the Church should declare its holdings; and in future, that funds which had before been given to the Church for educational purposes, would be used by the Government itself to establish an educational system.
The leaders of the Church, realising a loss of their power, identified themselves with a plot which at that time was the restoration of the Monarchy. With the Church in general in Spain, the procedure used was as follows:—Any priest showing Left tendencies was immediately driven out of the Church, and. In the majority of cases, excommunicated. The plot grew our of the hands, of the originators, as the world known today. On the 18th July, the Fascists had established military sections in various parts of the cities, but they considered that in the small towns and villages the priests would be able to control the population. For a few days they did, but eventually the people overcame many of these priests, not because they were priests but because they were members of a group that was opposing the constitutional rights they had established in February, 1936, by a democratic election.
No better example could be found than the training base of the British battalion in Spain in the vicinity of Albacete. In this village the nominal population was about 2,000 and the Church was located in the centre. Opposite the Church, the only water supply in the village was situated. A spring coming from the ground led Into two pipes and a wall was built over it. At dawn on the 19th July, when the men were getting ready for war, the women of the village went to the well to draw water. They were met by the priest, who sent them back, saying they wanted to meet the Councillors. Then the priest, speaking from the tower of the Church, demanded that they submit In the name of General Francisco Franco. On their refusing, he and his colleagues barricaded themselves [unclear: into the] tower with a machine gun and [unclear: the] four days nobody drew water in that spillage. At the end of that time, climbing the walls and [unclear: surrounding] him on all sides, they got him, losing 50 men in doing so. What happened to that priest and his colleagues was later described as one of the 'Red Atrocities. I was in this village on the 36th day of the revolt and saw the bullets—German ones—lodged in the wall."
Pat waved a copy of a Spanish number of "The Illustrated London News." "Look here", he said, "they've got photos here of every phase of the Spanish War from the beginning to the end—but in order to illustrate the 'Red Atrocities,' they've had to get a drawing. Only In the smaller towns, where the Government had very little control and a priest was In charge, did isolated cases of church-burning occur, and often, on their destruction, the Churches were found to be ammunition dumps."
Pat showed us with the aid of a map exactly why Franco could not and would not win. "At present." he said, "fighting is taking place very near to the coast, and the line comes through Fraga to Marella. on the North Aragon front. If the Government forces have the armies at Negrin they are stated to have, they should be able to defeat the half million Fascists occupying a small salient. On the Madrid sector North Madrid is clear and the Government still holds a sector of the Jarama River. The Government has cut off all contact with the University City, and does not consider it policy to take it by force of arms. Franco is afraid that the French frontier will open up because if that happens. It means the end of the war.
The Government is superior in man power, though they are pitifully short of arms. Although Government forces hold only one third of the territory, three-quarters of the population are concentrated in it. The fact that there are seven million refugees in Catalonia alone shows this clearly.
Franco has occupied Teruel for sixteen months and Is still forty miles from the coast."
Eager and Sincere
Pat is not intellectually brilliant, and when confronted by a cool and logical Lecturer in Philosophy whom we subsequently visited, many of his statements such as his assertion that all the Spanish people were fanatically pro-Government—lost a little of their point. He has a one-track mind—he constantly interrupted a conversation on Bach in his frantic attempts to prove the philosopher wrong. The slightest criticism or comment he interprets as utterances of enemies of 'The Cause'; his enthusiasm is tremendous. But he knows his Spain—its past, present, and, perhaps, future —as well as anyone: his narratives carry conviction and his arguments are generally sound: and above all he is thoroughly and eagerly sincere In his Intense hatred of Fascism.
And he is willing to die to rid the world of the object of his hatred.
(Next week "Salient" will publish some of Mr. Patterson's remarkable experiences in Germany.)