More than 60 people filled the Working Class Movement Library in Salford on 30th May to see former POUM militia man Roma Marquez Santo unveil a plaque to the ILP’s Spanish Civil War volunteers.
In a moving speech Roma declared it an honour for people, like himself, who fought fascism in the 1930s to be remembered by today’s generation. Many in the audience felt that the privilege was the other way round.
The plaque is the first ever public commemoration of the ILPers who fought in Spain, and its unveiling was marked by the launch of Chris Hall’s new book Not Just Orwell.
While disagreements about the civil war – particularly over divisions on the Republican side – will no doubt rumble on, Chris stressed that this occasion was not about rehashing old debates but commemorating and remembering individuals who stood up against fascism. Keen to redress what he called the “forgotten story” of the British left’s involvement, he recounted the contribution and sacrifices made by the ILP contingent and their comrades in POUM.
For the ILP, Barry Winter welcomed the book and plaque, which recognise the ILP’s role: “It is time to acknowledge the role played by those who, like Orwell, went to Spain to fight under the ILP banner, to stand alongside their comrades in the POUM. They are part of the story of the civil war and rightly deserve recognition.”
Remembering past anti-fascist struggles is particularly important today when the political influence of the far right is once again increasing across Europe.
The event ended with a performance of Spanish revolutionary songs by the Manchester group, the Maddonas.