Delores Ibarruri was an inspirational leader, a revolutionary fighter and an influential speaker who was heavily involved in the resistance movement against General Franco’s fascist coup which led to the Spanish Civil War.
Delores was born in Gallarta, Spain on the 9th December 1895 in to a family of miners. She experienced horrendous poverty as a child and her dream of becoming a teacher was never met due to her parents lack of money to finance her education. Instead, she became a seamstress. Her Husband, an active trade unionist, was imprisoned later in her life for leading a strike in 1934 against the fascist and feudal rule of CEDA , and as a consequence her financial situation deteriorated. She then began reading Karl Marx and his works influenced her to joining the Communist Party of Spain (PCE).
In 1920, Delores was elected into the provincial committee of the Communist Party in Basque and ten years later was elected on to the Central Committee of the PCE. She was a regular writer for the party’s publication, Mundo Obrero, signing off her works with the pseudonym La Pasionaria (Passion Flower). She used her journalism as a platform to campaign against the unfair treatment of women in the country and to improve it through socialist revolution.
However, as the social democrats, republicans and communists were uniting and had, as an outcome, contested in the 1936 general election and won, the fascists became infuriated with anger and rich with Hitler’s and Mussolini’s financial and military aid. They led a coup d’état under the leadership of General Franco against the new progressive government.
Imperialism, which was under threat in the new Republican Spain, sought to strangle the nation through fascism and also by preventing aid as they saw it – like Henry ford in the USA and our own royal family in Britain- as a means to deal with the rising tide of working class militancy and communism.
However, at a time when fascism, a system of slavery, backwardness, war, discrimination, fear, etc ,was on the rise and spreading throughout Europe, the Western Media was publicising 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 the only solution for the worsening capitalist crisis and the defeat of the rise of fascism. Instead of hailing the achievements of the Industrialisation and Collectivisation programme in Russia under Stalin, the capitalists would rather demonise it and consequently give rise to fascism.
In addition to that, the British, French and the USA were purposely hesitant in defending Spain against Franco by issuing a ‘non intervention’ agreement with each other. The Western Imperialist governments feigned neutrality but in their inner most part they supported fascism when it came to Spain. This did not help Delores and the revolutionaries within Spain in defending their nation against the fascists.
However, with a little help from their friends, namely the Soviet Union and Mexico, the People’s Army (the resistance movement formed by the anti-fascists in Spain) were supported by the International Brigade, a call sent by the Soviet Union to communist revolutionaries in Europe, the Americas and all over the world to fight with their brothers and sisters in Spain against Fascism. The Soviet Union also helped directly by sending tanks and weaponry to the resistance forces, even though they were busy building and preparing for the biggest and most catastrophic war the world had ever seen. This was done as the Soviet Union knew the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Fascism was the prelude to WW2 and if left undefeated, could strengthen the fascist ranks.
Throughout the Civil War, Delores was extremely active. She was the Chief Propagandist for the Republicans and in July 1936 she ended a radio speech with the famous slogan “THE FASCISTS SHALL NOT PASS! NO PASARAN!”. This slogan eventually became the battle cry for the Republican Army. Also, at a meeting for the women of Spain, she 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 gain support for the Republican Army, she cried ”The Spanish people would rather die on its feet than live on its knees!” She was also very active in the committee which transferred funds from the Comintern (The Communist International) which was set up in March 1919 by leading members of the Bolshevik party in Russia, to the Republican Army.
However, the Republican Army was threatened from within by the formation of POUM (The Worker’s Party of Marxist Unification) which was a Trotskyist led unification of left leaning parties within the nation. However, the parties involved, namely the fusion of the communist left of Spain and BLOC (Workers and Peasants Bloc), objected vigorously against the influence of the Soviet Union within the Republican Army. POUM was nicknamed the “Fifth Column” due to Emilio Mola, a fascist general during the civil war, stating in an interview to a journalist in 1936 that he has four columns of soldiers heading towards Madrid with a fifth one behind enemy lines, referring to POUM. The Worker’s Party of Marxist Unification was not only a diversion from the struggle against Fascism but a deliberate and barefaced service to Fascism. “Trotskyism in the Service to Franco” written by George Soria, which is based on first-hand observation and on the study and analysis of official documents and papers, explains how this came to occur and how it was instrumented.
However, the Republican Army could not hold off the might of Franco’s Army, which was financed heavily by Germany and Italy, and they eventually lost the civil war. On November 1st, Delores made a powerful speech to over 13,000 people at a farewell parade in Barcelona expressing her gratitude to all the volunteers who helped the Republican Army from the people of Spain. She stated “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, Delores fled to the Soviet Union where she lived a happy life. Her son fought for the Red Army but sadly died at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942. Delores still remained active within the PCE and became Secretary General in May 1944. She lived in Moscow for many years and in 1964, she received the Lenin Peace Prize and in 1965 she won the Order of Lenin Prize.
When General Franco died, Delores moved back to Spain and in 1977 she became deputy to the Cortes (Spanish parliament). At the age of 93, on the 12th November 1989, Delores Ibarruri past away from Pneumonia.
Delores shall be remembered as a woman who never capitulated to fascism, who fought for basic rights for women and a revolutionary fighter, activist, writer and speaker. She is an inspiration to us all and will never be forgotten. She is the shining star which directs us in our international anti imperialist duty as communists to lead the oppressed throughout the world in their struggle for liberation and dignity against all imperialism and reaction, headed by the NATO forces.