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"SOLDIERS OF PAPER AND INK ": AMERICAN INTELLECTUAL INTERPRETATIONS OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR BY ADAM D. SCHAFER A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Robert M. Johnson Sarasota, Florida May 2009
ii Dedication To my mother, who gave me the gift of words and inspired me to use them in search of the truth.
iii Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge the men and women who have contributed in no small way to shaping this thesis and its author. First, I would like to thank the professors who helped make this academic endeavor possible: Dr. Robert Johnson, my academic sponsor and thesis adviser for taking on this project with me and examining draft after draft of copy. Dr. David Harvey, Baccalaurea te Committee member, for sponsoring an academic tutorial on the Spanish Civil War that thoroughly covered the subject and the copious amount of its secondary literature. Dr. Jos Alberto Portugal, Baccalaureate Committee member, whose Spanish class was al ways engaging and directed me to the Latin American authors of this thesis. Dr. Maria Vesperi, for allowing me to expand my leadership potential and refine my writing skills through five semesters of the Catalyst student newspaper. Prof. Charla Bennaji without whose patience and guidance over five semesters I would not be able to speak one word of Spanish, let alone analyze poetry. Secondly, I would like to recognize all the members of my family whose love has supported me thus far and will continue to carry me into the future. Within my family I would like to especially acknowledge my Mom who, through her double role as a talented writer and an exceptional mother, has contributed to this thesis more than I have and who always told me to keep "fee ding the monster" when writers' block occurred. And, my Dad who, whether intentionally or not, has instilled in me his love of all things Spanish. And finally, to Anne Laure, with whom the past four years have been an endless journey of discovery about h uman compassion and kindness (and the finer points of French culture when in need of breaks from the Spanish Civil War).
iv Table of Contents Dedication ..... ii Acknowledgements .. iii Table of Content s .. iv Introduction .... 1 Chapter One: A "t ightrope of w ords": Langston Hughes ... 16 Chapter Two : Shaping Po l itics into Poetry: Edwin Rolfe ... 34 Chapter Three : Explaining a F ew Things : Pablo Neruda 51 Chapter Four : The world looks Spanish unto death": C sar Vallejo 67 Conclusion ... 82 Appendix ...... 90 Bi bliogra phy .... 93
1 Introduction: The Spanish Civil War is remarkable in that it is one of only a few conflict s with a history better represented by the losing side the Republicans instead of the winners, the Nationalists. Why is this? While there are m any answ ers to this question, this thesis addresses the important role intellectuals from the Western Hemisphere played in portraying this conflict in favor of the Second Spanish Republic. For the majority of these politically Left leaning literary figures who ma tured between the World Wars, the Spanish Civil War was the defining conflict of their age the key b attle between good and evil in the world. For this thesis, I examined the works of four intellectuals two North Americans, Langston Hughes and Edwin Rolfe; and two from South America, Pablo Neruda and Csar Vallejo. Through their writings, these men helped form an international community of Popular Front intellectuals that was intensely focused on the Spanish Civil War as the international site of resistanc e to fascism and, what they saw to be its brother in arms, predatory capitalism. For these men, the battle to represent the Spanish Civil War translated into contemporary struggles of the 1930s that had little to do with the war itself. Instead, they sym bolically appropriated the meaning of the Spanish Civil War to fit their own political, economic and social agendas and beliefs. As historian Jill Lepore explained, "War is perhaps best understood as a violent contest for territory, resources, and politic al allegiances, and, no less fiercely, a contest for meaning." 1 The Spanish Civil War encapsulated all of these characterizations in the 1930s and, even today, its significance is still a hotly debated subject. Historian Sebastiaan Faber has argued that, above all else, 1 Jill Lepore, The Name of War (New York: Vintage Books, 1999), x.
2 the Spanish Civil War was "an intense struggle among competing narrative frameworks." 2 Faber continues by noting, "All possible representational weapons were deployed in this relentless struggle for narrative hegemony photos, text, and fi lm; fiction, poetry, and music; posters, montage, and propaganda; populism and pathos." 3 Included in this artistic arsenal were the works of Hughes, Neruda, Rolfe and Vallejo. This thesis examines the newspaper articles, speeches, histories, memoirs an d poetry that these intellectuals wrote about the Spanish Civil War. Although the first four types of writing were integral to their interpretations of the war, this examination focuses on how their poetry imbued these interpretations with political meani ng. "To write poetry that is of poetic and political value," according to literary critic Roland Bleiker, "the author must produce more than mirror images of society. He or she has to distort visions in order to challenge the entrenched forms of represen tations that have come to circumscribe our understanding of sociopolitical reality." 4 In that sense, Hughes, Rolfe, Neruda and Vallejo all became political poets; they chose the Spanish Civil War as their political subject matter, they sided with the Repu blic and they had a specific political agenda to shape the significance of the war in favor of the Republic. Finally, their poetry was political because it mobilized people to a political cause. As Neruda remembered in his memoirs, poetry "must excite in dignation and admirationinflame the heart, move the hand towards the gun. It must become a flag, a slogan, a marching song." 5 In the 2 Sebastiaan Faber, Anglo American His panists and the Spa nish Civil War: Hispanophilia, Commitment, and Discipline (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008), 12. 3 Ibid., 5. 4 Roland Bleiker, "Pablo Neruda and the Struggle for Political Memory," Third World Quarterly (20, no. 6), 1140. 5 Qtd. in Bl eiker, 1136.
3 1930s, Hughes, Rolfe, Neruda and Vallejo pressed their poetry into service to define the Spanish Civil War as the revolu tionary moment of their era. They did this by using a Marxist framework to interpret the Spanish Civil War as the international class struggle for the emancipation of the working class. These intellectuals defined Marxism in broad terms that allowed them to analyze conflicts and people far from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' intended models (namely, the English working class as the proletariat and the Paris Commune as an example of the dictatorship of that proletariat). Gerald Brenan, the passionate Bri tish historian of Spain, writes that Marx himself noted: "There is perhaps no country except Turkey, so little known to and so falsely judged by Europe as Spain." Even so, Marx did not offer any solutions except to mention the "strength and resources of [ Spaniards] in their provincial and local organization." 6 The appeal of Marxism for Hughes, Rolfe, Neruda and Vallejo lay in its ideological concepts that explained history in economic terms as a class struggle between the laboring classes and the bourgeoi sie. For these intellectuals, the Spanish working class was a prime example of a class of people exploited for their labor and alienated from the means of production due to centuries of domination by reactionary institutions. Therefore, the Spanish Civil War became the expedient contemporary case of Marxist class conflict in action. Each intellectual developed his Marxist interpretation with unique dimensions to both understand and shape the meaning of this historic moment. They all channeled the Span ish Civil War through contemporary lenses that were crafted by their economic, political and social backgrounds and agendas. In so doing, these four authors not only contributed to the history of the Spanish Civil War, but they also defined their roles as 6 Qtd. in Gerald Brenan, The Spanish Labyrinth (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990), ix.
4 agents within that history by molding the meaning of the war to fit their own political goals. As Langston Hughes and Edwin Rolfe matured between the World Wars they became part of a growing international socio political movement that under the auspi ces of the Communist International ( or Comintern) coalesced into the Popular Front in 1934 The American branch of this movement, according to historian Michael Denning, built on earlier pro labor policies to advocate for "a social democratic electoral p olitics; a politics of anti fascist and anti imperialist solidarity; and a civil liberties campaign against lynching and labor repression." 7 Although these themes mirrored many of those espoused by the Communist Party, Denning makes the important note tha t Communists comprised only a part (albeit a significant one) of the Popular Front. "The heart of the Popular Front as a social movement," Denning explains, "lay among those who were non Communist socialists and independents leftists, working with Communi sts and with liberals, but marking out a culture that was neither a Party nor a liberal New Deal culture." 8 Instead, the Popular Front offered a program of international solidarity based on pro labor, anti racism and anti fascism Following on the heels of the Great Depression, this program appealed to the unionized workers of the Congress of Industrial Organizations who then developed political organizations that bargained on behalf of labor and, in the process, created a cultural community of artists an d intellectuals that represented their collective voice. 9 Hughes' Communist sympathies and Rolfe's membership in the Communist Party led them both to become part of this intellectual 7 Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: the Laboring of America in the Twentieth Century ( New York, Verso: 1996 ), 9 8 Ibid., 5. 9 Ibid., xvii i.
5 community that Denning terms the "cultural front." As the Popular Front opened up opportunities for workers to exercise collective political and economic agency during the 1930s so too did the cultural front allow these working class intellectuals to express their concomitant pro labor, anti racist and anti fascist beliefs t hrough artistic mediums. Langston Hughes' Marxist interpretation of the Spanish Civil War portrayed the war as a class struggle that also contained a racial element. His pro labor, anti racist politics allied him with the Popular Front and eventually t ook him to Spain. Although Hughes' childhood was scattered across many states, he settled in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City The c ity's vast cultural apparatus of auditoriums, theaters, educational institut ions and u nion halls provided a radica lly new atmosphere W hen coupled with the racial diversity of the city's neighborhoods, there existed a cross racial cultural dia log ue that was unprecedented in Hughes' prior segregated experience. In such an atmosphere, Hughes contributed artistically t o the Harlem Renaissance and politically, he latched on to many of the organizations and causes championed by the Communist Party without ever officially be coming a card carrying member This unique position allowed Hughes to develop both his poetry and h is politics parallel to but not submerged in Party rhetoric, especially with regards to racial and class inequalities. When confronted with the news of the fascist uprising in Spain, Hughes seized the opportunity to put his pro labor, anti racist politics into action through a Marxist portrayal of the Spanish Civil War as the international struggle against fascism and racism. However, by focusing his interpretation on blacks serving on both sides of the war, Hughes drew striking comparisons between Americ an slavery and Nationalist fascism. Hughes painted the Nationalists as little better than slave owners with Moorish
6 pawns as soldiers in order to warn his audience of the racism that awaited the world if the fascists won the Civil War. But there was hope for cross racial solidarity, symbolized by the African Americans who fought in the International Brigades. For Hughes, these men were heroes because they fought against racial repression on both sides of the Atlantic. Edwin Rolfe also emphasized the Spanish Civil War as a Marxist working class struggle, but significantly, he injected an unorthodox Judeo Christian messianic message into the conflict. Rolfe's interpretation also took on a distinctly American character as he saw his fellow volunteer s as continuing a specific American revolutionary tradition by fighting in Spain. Like Hughes, Rolfe matured in the politically charged cultural atmosphere of New York during the 1920s and 30s Although not as concerned with racism as his Harlem counterp art, Rolfe's pro labor stance and his membership in the Communist Party securely placed him within the scope of the Popular Front. Rolfe became a part of the cultural front as he articulated the revolutionary rhetoric of the Party using a Marxist framewor k. Therefore, at its base, the Spanish Civil War became a class conflict in Rolfe's portrayal, the latest in a series of historical events in which the workers of the world were fighting for liberation from the class oppression of the fascists and their b ourgeoisie allies. However, Rolfe also carved out a space in this workers' struggle for religious language. His poetry included Biblical references to endow the Civil War with a messianic hope for deliverance from fascism and its repressive class hierarc hy. Rolfe's interpretation also highlighted the American volunteers in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (actually a battalion of the International Brigades) as representations of America's revolutionary history of class emancipation from independence to the Sp anish Civil War.
7 Rolfe saw these Americans as having a significant part to play in the international Marxist revolution. Although it is difficult to make generalizations about the myriad experiences of Latin American countries, similar political and econ omic patterns affected each country's industrial and intellectual development from the wars of independence in the first half of the nineteenth century through the twentieth century generation that produced the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and his friend and fellow poet, Peruvian Csar Vallejo. Just as the Popular Front and its corresponding cultural front took shape in the United States, so too did socially committed politics and intellectual activity arise in Latin America out of the failure of laissez fa ire liberalism and the effects of global economic depression. Although independent of Spain since the early 1800s, only at the end of that century did modernization and industrialization bring new political, economic and intellectual growth to Latin Ameri ca, specifically Chile and Peru. For the most part, limited liberal democratic governments alternated in these countries with more authoritarian (some times military) regimes that succeeded to some degree in stabilizing politics, while economic growth inc reasingly relied on s ignificant investments by the United States, especially after Spain's influence dwindled after losing the Spanish American War in 1898. 10 This foreign intervention met with regionalist, anti imperialist backlashes from anarcho syndic alists who comprised the working class movements in Chile and Peru during this time. The evils of "Yankee imperialism" were also echoed by traditional, conservative intellectuals like Uruguayan Jos Enrique Rod, whose most famous essay Ariel decries the nordomana the fascination with the north and th e purely materialist 10 David Palmer, Peru: T he Authoritarian Tradition (New York: Praeger, 1980), 20.
8 attraction of the United States. Nicaraguan poet Ruben Daro also attacked U.S. imperialism characterized by President Theodore Roosevelt who became the godless "future invader" of Latin America. Pablo Neruda would later connect with this anti imperialism to form his ow n critique of capitalism in both Spain and Latin America. The governments which attempted to modernize Latin America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries could not withstand the political and economic fallout from the Great Depression. As various regimes collapsed, Latin Americans looked to alternative political and economic systems to replace them. Latin American historian David Palmer has noted the dive rsity of these alternatives: "These included corporativism or socialism drawn from international ideological currents or various nativistic alternatives elaborated from domestic wellsprings." 11 The main Latin American voice for Marxism was Peruvian intelle c tual Jos Carlos Maritegui whose idea of socialism articulated contemporary European trends in Marxism with a reinterpretation of the value of deeply rooted, indigenous practices By the 1920s, Palmer notes, "workers' unions and parties were generally m uch more class conscious than their anarcho syndicalist predecessors had been, to a large degree because of the growing international appeal of socialism and communism." 12 Taking as models the recent Mexican and Russian revolutions, these Latin American wo rkers shaped the international ideologies to fit their domestic molds. 13 In Neruda's Chile, for example, the economic crisis gave rise to a powerful Socialist Party that, according to historian Paul Drake, emphasized the collective agency of trade unions, class conflict as the engine of change, 11 Palmer, 58. 12 Ibid., 71 74. 13 Ibid., 70.
9 and embraced social revolution as their ultimate goal. 14 Likewise, in Vallejo's Peru, the left liberal coalition known as the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) which combined socialists, Marxists, liber als and moderates to emphasize a socialist nationalism through recovering Peru's indigenous past emerged as a driving force in the country's political scene 15 Vallejo himself was so committed to the ideals of socialism that he helped found the Peruvian S ocialist Party along with other expatriates while living in Paris during this time. 16 Neruda and Vallejo grew up on the fringes of Latin American society and both developed even more radical liberal ideas than the indigenous Marxists ideas developed sign ificantly during their European experience. In that sense, as literary critic Stephen Tapscott has explained, "the defining international moment [for them] was not the Mexican Revolution or World War I, but the Spanish Civil War." 17 For Neruda, the Span ish Civil War was a turning point both personally and politically. Although he technically should have remained neutral because of his consular position in Spain, Neruda entered into his Marxist interpretation of the war through personal experience. For him, the war began with the destruction of his house in Madrid and the assassination of his friend and fellow poet Federico Garcia Lorca. 18 Although he was more personal in his approach than his North American counterparts, Neruda used a Marxist viewpoint in his poems, collected as Spain in the Heart to state that the Civil War as the international moment of class revolution. However, Neruda saw 14 Paul Drake, Socialism and Populism in Chile, 1932 52 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 5. 15 Ibid., 11 12. 16 Jul io Vlez and Antonio Merino, Espaa en Csar Vallejo (Madrid: Tcnicas Grficas, 1984), 1:99 100. 17 Stephen Tapscott, ed. Twentieth Century Latin American Poetry ( Austin TX: University of Texas Press, 1996 ), 17. 18 Pablo Neruda, Confieso que he vivido: Mem orias Trans. Hardie St. Martin ( New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977 ), 137.
10 the peasant class, in addition to their industrial working class counterparts, as comprising the radical Spanis h proletariat. Neruda also imbued his interpretation with a unique moral aspect wherein the egalitarianism of these Spanish peasants and workers had the righteous advantage over the traitorous Nationalists. Finally, adding a racist dimension to his inter pretation, Neruda characterized the Spanish Civil War as an imperialist conquest by the bestial Nationalists who only sought profits from the destruction they caused. Like his Chilean counterpart, Csar Vallejo saw the Spanish Civil War as the decisive mo ment to exercise his poetic voice and defend the Republic, albeit on completely different terms. T he Spanish Civil War dominated Vallejo's intellectual and artistic attention, and incited a creative process informed by his Marxist understanding of the war as a class struggle for workers' emancipation. The result of this process, the series of poems collected under the title Spain, Take This Cup from M e adds two more elements to this portrayal: religion and gender. Even though most Marxists dismissed rel igion as a superstructural embellishment to the working class revolution, Vallejo reclaimed the religious justification for war from the Church sponsored Nationalists in order to characterize the Republicans as on a crusade of Christian liberation. Likewi se, Vallejo injected a gendered dimension into the Civil War as he saw Spain as the traditional mother figure of the world and, as such, Vallejo recognized the need to defend Mother Spain from the hyper masculinity of fascism. This international group of intellectuals was able to quickly capitalize on the significance of the Spanish Civil War because, for the first time in history, technological advances made it possible for observers to relay information about the conflict all over the world in a matter o f minutes. The new technologies also contributed to a propaganda
11 war fought alongside the actual battles. As historian Antony Beevor has explained, "The [Nationalist] risingwas the first modern coup in which radio stations, telephone exchanges and aerod romes were of major importance." 19 As intellectual "correspondents," Hughes, Neruda, Rolfe and Vallejo produced and transmitted knowledge about the war in a media frenzy. The first three spoke on the radio in order to broadcast news (and propaganda) direc tly from the front. And Vallejo, for his part, could always be found waiting at the Montparnasse train station in Paris for the latest news to arrive from Madrid via telephone and telegraph which he would then incorporate into his poetry. 20 The networks c reated by these intellectuals who used radios, telephones and wire services to disseminate their perspectives gave rise to the modern concept of war journalism "imbedding" reporters to receive instantaneous, eye witness accounts of violent conflict. Howev er, new technologies also gave these front line intellectuals the power to present the facts in a subjective manner. As historian Valentine Cunningham described it, "In no war before this one had the means of propaganda been used on so massive a scale." Color poster printing techniques, political photo montages, documentary films and radio broadcasts were all employed by intellectuals as they became "a vital set of extra troops" for both sides. 21 While the intellectuals were fighting the battle of represe ntation away from the front lines, the actual Civil War was waged within a historically fractured Spain. The Civil War had organic roots in the see sawing politics of post imperial Spain. Before describing "what actually happened" in Spain, British write r and Republican 19 Antony Beevor, The Battle for Spain (New York: Penguin, 2006), 60. 20 Jos Rubia Barcia and Clayton Eshleman, eds. Csar Vallejo: The Complete Posthumous Poetry ( Berkeley, C A Unive rsity of California Press, 1978), xxvi. 21 Valentine Cunningham, Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), xxi.
12 volunteer George Orwell, who wrote of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War in his Homage to Catalon i a offered this caution to his readers: "if you are not interested in political controversy and the mob of parties and sub parties with their confusing names (rather like the names of the generals in a Chinese war), please skip. It is a horrible thing to have to enter into the details of inner party polemics; it is like diving into a cesspool." 22 The "cesspool" of Spanish politics bega n in the power vacuum created by the Restoration era King Alfonso XIII. With an aristocratic and apathetic hand, the King gave away royal power to a series of advisors turned dictators to govern the country during the first decades of the twentieth centur y. Ironically, this is how many of the leading conspirators of the Nationalist uprising earned their reputations as both military and political strongmen. On the other side of the political lever were the Spanish trade unions which, bolstered by the inte rnational ideas of Marxism and Communism, also cemented their membership and became powerful economic and political organizations. The most influential of these unions were the socialist General Union of Workers (UGT) and the more radical anarcho syndical ist National Confederation of Labor (CNT). Both groups the unions and the military clashed in a series of alzamientos (workers' risings) and pronunciamientos (military pronouncements) that further divided the country into camps. In 1931, the King officia lly abdicated after the conservative Right lost the national elections; the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed shortly thereafter. However, the strong divisions within Spain continued to simmer until they finally boiled over into an all out civil war in 1936. 22 George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1952 ), 149.
13 The opposing sides in the Civil War quickly crystallized along political, social and economic lines. The idea for rebellion started with the military, specifically the conservative officer corps led by generals Francisco Franco, Emilio Mola an d Jos Sanjurjo. Since these generals earned their stripes in the colonial wars in Africa, their initial support came from their troops (hence Franco's so called "Army of Africa") and the Spanish Foreign Legion. Economically, the Nationalists were sponso red by the landowning elites (primarily located in the south) whose large estates were collectivized and their profits taxed by the agrarian reforms of the Republic. Politically speaking, the Nationalist's support came from the fascist, reactionary Falang e Espaola (Spanish Phalanx) and the conservative, Catholic Right. "The ideal Falangist was supposed to be half monk, half soldier,'" according to Beevor, while the Church "provided the [N]ationalist alliance with both a common symbol of tradition and a cause to transcend ideological confusion within the ranks." 23 In comparison, the Republicans comprised a tenuous Popular Front alliance of liberal Spaniards; communists, socialists, left of center politicians and even radical anarcho syndicalists were repr esented. Much of the Republic's strength also came from the unions that formed the first worker militias to defend against the Nationalist uprising in the urban centers. The Republicans also counted the regionalist movements of Catalonia and the Basques (most of them Catholics) as allies because these people wanted to protect the autonomy granted them by the Republican Constitution of 1931. The Spanish Civil War also had a crucial international character as foreigners quickly took sides that amplified the significance of this local conflict. As soon as the Nationalist generals proclaimed (from Africa) their revolt in the summer of 1936, all eyes 23 Beevor, 4 1 and 96.
14 were on Spain to see how the democratically elected Republic would face off both militarily and ideological ly against the rebels and which side would be internationally supported and recognized as legitimate. To a certain degree, both the Republican and the Nationalist causes were eventually validated in the international arena. However, the Nationalists bene fited greatly from immediate aid from fascist Germany and Italy, aid that was overlooked by the European democracies that continued to hold on to a hollow "non intervention" agreement between the Great Powers. Once it was confirmed that German and Italian men and materiel were fighting for the Nationalists, the Soviet Union was the first to mobilize support for the Spanish Republic. 24 However, this aid came at a heavy price both financially and politically. Nearly two months after the outbreak of the Ci vil War, the Com i ntern was given permission by Stalin to send military supplies aircraft, artillery, rifles and tanks to the Republic. Much of Spain's gold reserves (at that time the fourth largest in the world) went to the Soviets as payment for these su pplies. 25 The Comintern also went one step further to organize the International Brigades to fight in Spain. Together with Soviet military advisers and political commissars, more than 30,000 men from 53 countries joined the Brigades, the first of which wa s formed in Spain during the winter of 1936 37. 26 As Beevor astutely points out, more than half of these volunteers were members of their respective Communist Parties and nearly all were middle or lower class workers 24 Although certain sectors of the French Popular Front sent aid, the only other country to openly support the Republic was Mexico. 25 Beevor, 154. 26 Ibid., 157 58.
15 who "saw fascism as an international th reat, and the Brigades appeared to offer the best way of fighting it." 27 Just like their International Brigade counterparts, the international Left saw the Spanish Civil War as the opportunity to ally their pro labor, anti fascist sympathies with the Rep ublic. A collection of North and Latin American intellectuals (including Pablo Neruda) posed "The Question" about which side they supported to their contemporaries in 1937 in a pamphlet candidly titled Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War 28 Though not a ll intellectuals allied themselves with the Republic (Roy Campbell, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and W.B. Yeats to name a select few), the ones who did actively began participating with aid organizations to benefit the Republic and, in some cases, even voluntee red to fight. Langston Hughes, Edwin Rolfe, Pablo Neruda and Csar Vallejo became inextricably linked to the Spanish Civil War as part of that international intellectual community. In addition to noting the horrors of the battlefield, these four intell ectuals fought their own war with words. They employed their common anti fascism and pro labor politics to describe the meaning of the Spanish Civil War and shape its significance through their own analyses. In so doing, Langston Hughes, Edwin Rolfe, Pab lo Neruda and Csar Vallejo not only contributed to the history of the Spanish Civil War, but they also defined the role of writers as "soldiers of paper and ink" within that history. 29 27 Beevor, 159. 28 Reprinted in Cunningham, 51 57. 29 Beevor, 248.
16 Chapter One: A "tightrope of words": Langston Hughes "Dear Brother at home: We captured a wounded Moor today. He was just as dark as me. I said, Boy, what you been doin' here Fightin' against the free?" 30 By the time Langston Hughes wrote these words in "November Something, 1937," the poet laureate of 1920s Harlem had l eft behind the Harlem Renaissance, and now found himself walking a "tightrope of words," 31 as fascism battled liberalism on the world's stage. This poem, written while working as a correspondent for several newspapers and periodicals, is a "Letter from Spa in," where Hughes observed a "Divided Spain, with men of color fighting on both sides." 32 Initially, Hughes was sent to Spain because he spoke Spanish and wanted to report on black soldiers. However, Hughes published numerous writings that use the Spanish Civil War as a backdrop for his much larger political perspectives on racial and class inequities; Nationalist fascism became just another word for rampant capitalism and international racism. Therefore, Hughes' interpretation of the Civil War presents t he conflict as a battleground of competing ideas about the role of class and race in the future world order. Hughes saw the Spanish Civil War using a Marxist framework as the international site of class struggle where the working class formed an interna tional solidarity to defend the Spanish Republic from fascism. He focused on contrasting the workers of the Republic with the bourgeois forces of fascism and, in the process, highlighted the same 30 Langston Hughes, "Letter From Spain Addressed to Alabama," ( Volunteer For Liberty 1, no. 23), 3. 31 Langston Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander: a n Autobiographical Journey ( New York : Hill and Wang, 1964), 400. 32 Ibid., 327.
17 class inequalities in America. As a foreign observer, Hugh es also noted the international aspect of this Marxist revolutionary moment as workers from all over the world converged in Spain to symbolically fight against class hierarchies in their own nations. Then, Hughes inserted race relations into his Marxist i nterpretation of the war to illuminate the important role blacks played in the conflict. He saw African American volunteers as exercising a particularly important role in forming this solidarity in contrast with their Moorish counterparts whose conscripti on into the Nationalist armies smacked of American slavery and Jim Crow segregation. In doing so, Hughes constructed intertwining narratives about these two main themes class and race in which he forged links between black and white, America and Spain and politics and literary production literary links that have been consistently disregarded when listing Hughes' contributions to literature. Hughes' anti fascist Marxism in Spain can be traced back to his political radicalization with pro labor, anti racism ideals espoused by the Communist Party during the 1920s and early 1930s. According to Hughes' biographer Arnold Rampersad, Hughes' politics "began a dramatic move to the far left," during this time that directed him towards Communism. 33 Hughes was associ ated with the John Reed Club of New York, a Communist supported "center for radical writers and artists," and his work was frequently published in the Club's literary mouthpiece, New Masses 34 Like much of the black intellectual community, Hughes' support of the radical Left was cemented as early as 1931, when the "Scottsboro Boys" case and its Communist sponsored defense achieved international attention. Nine African American men, ages 12 20, were accused 33 Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes ( New Yo rk : Oxford University Press, 1986), 1:215. 34 Ibid., 215.
18 of raping two white women in Alabama. The Scottsb oro Boys, as the group came to be called, were tried several times by all white juries and sentenced to death. While the NAACP was slow to respond for fear of alienating its religious membership, the Communist backed International Labor Defense (ILD) took up the case. 35 Hughes was incensed by these unfair trials, throwing his support behind the ILD as he channeled his anger at American racial inequality into the vision of workers' solidarity provided by the Communist Party. This judicial struggle increase d black membership in the Party, and Hughes' commitment to the boys' defense catapulted him into the presidency of the newly reconstituted League of Struggle for Negro Rights, a group also organized by the Party and largely populated by its members. Altho ugh neither a professed Marxist nor a member of the Communist Party, much of Hughes' reportage and political rhetoric about the Spanish Civil War echoes the Communist Party's goal of fighting for pro labor and anti racist principles. Hughes advocated for this viewpoint and, as such, developed his own Marxist portrayal of the Spanish Civil War as a class struggle between the working class proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Without even having set foot in Spain, Hughes began to characterize the Spanish Civil War as a class struggle with links to economic hierarchies in America. In 1937, Hughes was not the widely known literary figure he is today. Rather, he found himself almost destitute because of family financial drains, and with few published works to ge nerate royalties. 36 This financial predicament only further emphasizes Hughes' proclivity to see class divides in Spain. Before arriving there, Hughes clearly stated his Marxist position at the Parisian session of the Second International Writer's Congres s for 35 Rampersad, 216. 36 Hughes I Wonder as I Wander 315 16.
19 the Defense of Culture in a speech entitled "Too Much of Race": "We Negroes of America are tired of a world divided superficially on the basis of race and color but in reality on the basis of poverty and power the rich over the poor, no matter what t heir color." 37 For Hughes, the Nationalist rebels represented the bourgeoisie in power on both sides of the Atlantic from the plantation owners who kept America in a segregated state to the landowners who exploited the Spanish peasant under the latifundia agricultural system. When Hughes called out to his fellow intellectuals, "We represent the end of race," it is because race was another way to impose class hierarchies, as evident in America. To illustrate this point, Hughes noted: "When there is no more race, there will be no more capitalism, and no more war, and no more money for the munitions makers because the workers of the world will have triumphed." 38 With this class struggle in mind, Hughes crossed the French border into Spain. Fresh from the Int ernational Writers Congress, Hughes continued his class based interpretation of the Spanish Civil War by explaining the types of people on either side of the conflict: the Republican workers arrayed against Franco and his wealthy, international backers. I mplicit in this contrast is Hughes' appeal to American workers to volunteer to fight the Nationalists now, lest their fascist ideology take hold in the United States. In Hughes' article, reprinted later as "Franco and the Moors," he described that "the ri chare trying to smash this democracy and have hired Franco to put the country back in chains again." 39 While Franco is little more than a mercenary, the Republican 37 Langston Hughes, "Too Much of Race," ( Volunteer for Liberty 1, n o. 11 ), 3. 38 Hughes, "Too Much of Race," 4. 39 Langston Hughes and Faith Ber ry, ed., Good Morning, Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings (New York: L. Hill, 1973), 106.
20 "People's Army" is "made up of farmers and working men" in Hughes' portrayal. 40 The economi c disparity created by this contrast is aimed directly at Hughes' working class audience back in America, in hopes that they will support one of the many economic relief efforts organized for the Republic or travel to Spain themselves as volunteers. Likew ise, in his poem "Madrid 1937," Hughes gave his working class audience a vision of Madrid where the working day has figuratively stopped as Nationalist artillery shells shatter the clocks and workers march straight from the factory to the front lines. Ne ar the beginning of the poem, Hughes described Franco's guns as blasting Madrid back to a "Birth of darkness" where "The dullness of a bill of sale [reads]: / BOUGHT AND PAID FOR! SOLD!" 41 From Hughes perspective, Madrid was sold out to the rebels by those democracies especially America, France and Great Britain who idly watched as European fascist powers Germany and Italy conveniently supplied Franco with weapons. For Hughes, this class conflict had far reaching ramifications outside of Spain as the war t ook on an international tone in his Marxist interpretation. Hughes emphasized the Spanish Civil War as the key moment of the international Marxist revolutionary project, with members of multiple nations fighting for a "worker's Spain" and, by extension, a worker's world. Hughes' article "Soldiers from Many Lands United in Spanish Fight," published in the December 18, 1937 edition of the Baltimore Afro American is an illuminating example of this association. Hughes began this article by noting 37 nationa lities that have come to Spain to fight under the banner of the International Brigades. From that figure, he highlighted several specific nations that, in his mind, have put in place purposefully oppressive economic institutions to prove that 40 Hughes and Berry, ed., 106. 41 Reprinted in Cary Nelson, ed., The Wound and the Dream: Sixty Years of American Poems about the Spanish Civil War (Chicag o: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 116.
21 elements of fascism can be found outside of the Iberian Peninsula and, more importantly, that people from around the world are taking a stand against it in Spain. The Irish volunteer battles the Bank of England, the German combats the Nazi government's suppression of labor unions and the Frenchman fights for his right to strike and to have working class representation in government, all by enlisting in the International Brigades. According to Hughes' argument, "class conscious workers come to fight in Spain because t hey realize that the enemy now firing from the Fascist trenches is the same old enemy they have at home." 42 Hughes hammered home this point when he announced: "Fascism is what the Ku Klux Klan will be when it combines with the Liberty League and starts usi ng machine guns and airplanes instead of a few yards of rope." 43 In this short paragraph, the KKK furnished a chilling connection of racial repression, while Hughes used the Liberty League an American organization founded in 1934 by leading industrialists and politicians which became notorious for its attempt to overthrow President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the so called "Business Plot" as an example of "fascist" economic scheming in America. For Hughes, the Civil War became a proxy war for these intern ational workers (himself included) to fight the economic despotism most recently symbolized by the Nationalists but that also characterized their own nations. By banding together and fighting in Spain, these international volunteers were crucial in formin g the spearhead of the international Marxist revolution. Additionally, Hughes infused his Marxist portrayal of the Spanish Civil War with a racial dimension that stemmed both from his identity as an African American and his international anti racist and anti fascist politics as a member of the Popular Front. 42 Langston Hughes and Christopher C. De Santis, ed., The Collected Works of Langston Hughes (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 9:178. 43 Hughes and De Santis, ed., 181.
22 Although Rampersad describes the Hughes family as, "Of Indian, French and some African ancestry," Hughes found his racial roots in Africa. 44 He declared this connection in his autobiographical poem Negro" that, "I am a Negro: / Black as the night is black, / Black like the depths of my Africa." 45 As Rampersad explains, "In using the word black' rather than Negro, Hughes was following a radical minority tradition in Afro American letters." 46 This rad ical tradition was formed while Hughes was growing up in the 1910s and 20s, by his admiration of two famous names in African American thought: W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. Although he was published in DuBois' literary magazine Crisis Hughes favored t he international tone of Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement and set out on his own African journey as a sailor in 1923, during which he also stopped briefly in Spain. While in Angola Hughes' initial racial connection to Africa shifted because, as he remem bered, "The Africans looked at me and would not believe I was a Negro." 47 Therefore, this trip emphasized for Hughes his identity as a mix of both African and American. Upon returning to the United States the following year, he was able to cement his iden tity as an African American intellectual with mixed racial origins a position that granted him flexibility in examining racial inequities around the world, including in the Spanish Civil War. Beginning with the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes applied his Afri can American identity to expand the scope of his racial politics, which led him eventually to report on blacks fighting fascism in Spain. Under the guidance and influence of fellow writer Alain Locke, Hughes found himself contributing poetry and prose to the Harlem 44 Rampersad, 5. 45 Qtd. in Rampersad 44 46 Rampersad, 44. 47 Qtd. in Rampersad, 78.
23 Renaissance, which was to be a "resurgence of a people" formed around an African American identity. Begun by the "race conscious and forward looking" Locke, 48 this movement aimed at connecting racially progressive events in Harlem, New York to a network of "nascent movements of self determination playing a part in the world to day ." 49 For Hughes, early experiences like these (he was twenty one during his aforementioned trip to Africa and only a few years older during the Harlem Renaissance) opene d a window onto the irony of using a "scientific" racial hierarchy as a justification for conquest and segregation because he realized that race is based on perspective. Therefore, as the self determination of both Ethiopia and Spain was threatened by fas cism in the 1930s, Hughes reached across the spectral shades of color and create d a literary connection among peoples to combat this advancing banner that holds only terror and segregation for all the darker peoples of the earth." 50 Hughes immediately vo iced his contempt for the 1935 invasion of Ethiopia and published "The Ballad of Ethiopia," a poem that foreshadows his political and literary commitment to the Spanish Civil War. Although Italy was embarrassed in its defeat by the Ethiopian army during t he first attempt to conquer this African nation in the 1890s, almost forty years later the fascist Il Duce Benito Mussolini vowed to avenge this humiliating defeat, and began his new Roman Empire by invading Ethiopia. In October 1935, the Italians once ag ain attacked Ethiopia and came prepared with machine guns, poison gas and mechanized units. Black intellectuals across the globe, including Hughes, were enraged at this fascist power play, which was also in direct violation of the laws of 48 Rampersad, 67. 49 Qtd. in Robert Johnson, "Globalizing the Harlem Renaissance," The Journal of Global History (July 2006), 155. 50 Langston Hughes, "Negroes in Spain," ( Volunteer for Liberty 1, no. 14), 4.
24 the League of Na tions (to which both Italy and Ethiopia belonged). In response, black Americans formed groups such as the United Aid for Ethiopia to provide medical supplies and financial support through community fundraisers. 51 However, neither European democracies nor the Soviet Union came to the aid of Ethiopia and, as historian Robin Kelley has noted, the International Brigades were not formed by the Comintern to fight in this conflict due to an intra Party disagreement over the degree to which Ethiopia still operated under a "feudal" government. 52 Unfortunately for the Ethiopians, outside relief efforts were generally lost on the lopsided struggle between these poorly trained and ill equipped African soldiers and Italy's professional army which, this time, conquered t he African nation in less than a year of fighting. Nonetheless, Hughes' "Ballad of Ethiopia," published in the September 28, 1935 Baltimore Afro American is a call to action for "All you colored peoples / Be a man at last / Say to Mussolini / No! You sha ll not pass." 53 In these four lines Hughes called out to his African American audience for racial solidarity with their African counterparts in a trans Atlantic alliance to combat the encroachment of fascism a concept Hughes continued to use in his later w ritings on Spain. Although the Ethiopian war was concluded by a swift Italian victory, this conflict galvanized the African American community, including Hughes, into viewing fascism as a worldwide menace bent on conquest of those deemed inferior, startin g with blacks. After it became apparent that Emperor Haile Selassie's government could not withstand the Italian onslaught, many African Americans shifted their support from a defeated Ethiopia to an embattled Republican Spain as their cause clbre I n Race 51 Robin D.G. Kelley, "This Ain't Ethiopia, But It'll Do," in African Americans in the Spanish Civil War ed. Danny Duncan Collum (New York: G.K. Hall and Company, 1992), 19. 52 Robin D.G. Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (New York: Free Press, 1994), 131. 53 Ibid., 123.
25 Rebels Kelley argues that African American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War "fought Franco as a backhanded response to Mussolini[creating] a kind of race conscious, Pan Africanist internationalism." 54 Hughes, for his part, responded by linking these two struggles in writing. In fact, as Kelley has noted, the last line of "Ballad of Ethiopia" "No! You shall not pass" became the famous defense slogan of Madrid during the siege of the Spanish capital. 55 Therefore, Hughes' journey to Spain was an e xtension of his political sentiments towards Ethiopia. However, this time, Hughes went to report firsthand on how race was playing a part in that country's civil struggle and to show his African American audience the need to stop fascism in Spain lest it extend its influence even further into the free world. At the International Writers Congress, Hughes likened American slavery and segregation to fascism, along with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, to articulate the need for cross racial solidarity on a n international scale to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. In Paris Hughes began his speech by decrying the "combination of color and poverty" so characteristic of the African American experience in the United States. 56 "We are the people," he decla res, "who have long known in actual practice the meaning of the word fascism for the American attitude toward us has always been one of economic and social segregation." 57 Speaking from this standpoint, Hughes placed this segregated experience within the l arger context of international fascism, effectively linking America and Europe as subscribing to similar racial hierarchies: "Just as in America, they tell the whites that Negroes are dangerous brutes and rapists, so in 54 Kelley, Race Rebels 11. 55 Ibid., 123. 56 Hughes, "Too Much of Race," 3. 57 Ibid.
26 Germany they lie about the Jews, and in Italy they cast their verbal spit upon the Ethiopians." 58 Later in the speech, Hughes implied that as Americans begin to tear down the color wall through integrated unions and collective action, so too can Europeans stand up to fascism and its racist r hetoric. As a result, Hughes was confident in the potential for cross racial solidarity when he stated, "together, both Negroes and whites are strong. We are learning." 59 Once inside the Republican zone of Spain, the Civil War became the international moment of racial reckoning as Hughes dedicated himself to reporting on African American volunteers in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Moorish troops of Franco's Army of Africa. Not only did his Marxist interpretation show the potential for internation al working class solidarity, but he also emphasized the international importance of race as both a uniting and a dividing force. As he remembered in his memoirs, his commitment to reporting about blacks Civil War signified that his "interests had broadene d from Harlem and the American Negro to include an interest in all the colored peoples of the world," including those fighting in Spain. 60 Hughes' first article on blacks in the Spanish Civil War entitled "Negroes in Spain," was published in the Internatio nal Brigade newspaper the Volunteer for Liberty and it presents the Civil War as the moment for African Americans to join the international anti fascist coalition. Hughes boldly stated that, "In Spain, there is no color prejudice." 61 Instead, he met "wid e awake Negroes from various parts of the world" on the Republican side who are fighting to prevent fascism's advance, lest there be "no 58 Hughes, "Too Much of Race," 3. 59 Ibid., 4. 60 Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander 400. Emphasis in original. 61 Hughes, "Neg roes in Spain," 4.
27 decent place for any Negroes because Fascism preaches the creed of Nordic supremacy and a world for whites only." 62 For Hughes, the sacrifices of 90 (known) African American volunteers of the Lincoln Brigade flew in the face of such a world order. One of these men was Oliver Law who, according to historian Peter Carroll, was the first American black officer to command whi te troops in battle. 63 Bernard "Bunny" Rucker was another whom Hughes interviewed. As Hughes noted in his memoirs, Rucker volunteered to fight in Spain because "he felt that Negroes should become more international in their viewpoint and activities, then they would understand their own problems better, and see their relationship to similar problems elsewhere in the world." 64 For Hughes, black soldiers like these symbolized the African American's involvement in more than just Harlem or the American South, b ut also as an integral part of the international anti fascist coalition. As such, Hughes lionized these volunteers for his audience in America, even though it was a democracy that refused to let Hughes enter Spain and one that still subscribed to a hollow "separate but equal" racial philosophy. In contrast, Spain was the country to which people from America and elsewhere flocked in order to stand up for their beliefs, despite their governments' official non intervention policies. While in Spain, Hughes also reported on African troops conscripted into Franco's armies, comparing their experiences to those of African American volunteers in order to show his audience the racially divided world that beckoned if the Spanish Republicans did not win the war. Hu ghes' article "Negroes in Spain" sheds light on this contrast. In 62 Hughes, "Negroes in Spain," 4. 63 Peter Carroll. The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1994 ), 135. 64 Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander 369.
28 the text, "Negroes" is a term reserved for black American volunteers, while the "deluded and driven Moors of North Africa" are portrayed as having little or no agency in deciding their fate 65 Partly, this reflects the reality that by 1937, there were more than 60,000 Moorish regulares serving in Franco's so called "Army of Africa," many of whom were either forced to enlist, 66 or as Hughes hypothesized, "deceived by false promises of loot and high pay." 67 However, Hughes made these generalizations about the North African soldiers as part of his rhetorical strategy to elicit support for the Republic from his American readers. He did this by furthering the savage stereotype of the Moors, but on ly insofar as they have been kept that way by white overlords, similar to the concept of American slavery that peculiar institution which, in Hughes' mind, could potentially raise its ugly head once more. Therefore, as the headline of the Baltimore Afro A merican declared in large capital lettering, "HUGHES FINDS MOORS USED AS PAWNS BY FASCISTS IN SPAIN," in hopes of igniting an anti slavery (and thus anti fascist) sensation among black Americans. If this headline did not achieve the desired effect, Hughes blatantly stated the oppressive connection of a Nationalist Spain to American slavery in another article published in the December 18, 1937 Afro American when he wrote: "Give Franco a hood and he would be a member of the Ku Klux Klan 68 Instead of mentio ning other Nationalist generals like Mola or Queipo de Llano (both of whom made threats against Spanish citizens based on racial stereotypes 69 ), Hughes focused his words on Franco who became the leader of the Nationalists by the time this article was publis hed. Even so, Hughes' message is a powerful literary connection between 65 Hughes, "Negroes in Spain," 4. 66 Beevor, 198. 67 Hu ghes and Berry, ed., 106. 68 Hughes and De Santis, ed., 163. 69 For just one example from Queipo de Llano, see Beevor, 77.
29 America's enslaved past and fascism, a new racist ideology which Hughes saw as enslaving the future. Despite his necessary oversimplification of the history behind Spanish race relat ions, Hughes' poetry also commented on the important role African American volunteers played in fighting for emancipation of people of color such as the Moors who don't even realize they are enslaved by the imperialist forces of fascism. His "Letter from Spain Addressed to Alabama," first published in the Volunteer for Liberty in 1937, commented on these African American volunteers turned liberators through the eyes of a fictional "Johnny" (a figure that frequents much of Hughes' poetry). While fighting i n Spain, Johnny approaches a captured Moor who is "as dark as [Johnny]" and who was conscripted into the Army of Africa. Through a translator, Johnny asks the Moor why he is "here / Fightin' against the free?" The Moor replies that "They nabbed him in hi s land / And made him join the fascist army / And come across to Spain." 70 This exchange reinforced Hughes' argument that Franco's African troops are serving in the fascist forces against their will. This Moor in particular "said he had a feelin' / This w hole thing wasn't right. / He said he didn't know / The folks he had to fight." Because he does not know who or why he is fighting, the Moor is exonerated of his prior role as a conscripted soldier in the "fascist army" and becomes something more: the sym bol of fascism's exploitation of the "dark" peoples of Africa. In contrast, Johnny acts as a liberator when he "looked across to Africa / And seed foundations shakin.'" 71 These foundations refer to the slave based, colonial European Africa a model Johnny believes the Nationalists 70 Hughes, "Letter from Spain Addressed to Alabama," 3. 71 Ibid.
30 will install unless "a free Spain wins this war." 72 As historian and literary critic Cary Nelson argues, Hughes' "seed" functions as a double entendre in this poem; Hughes' diction can mean the past tense of the verb to see, but it also creates the image of racial emancipation growing out of this moment that will eventually crack through the foundations of the segregated world. 73 For Hughes, the actions of African Americans who fought against fascist in Spain had much larger, inte rnational implications: I guess that's why old England And I reckon Italy, too, Is afraid to let a worker's Spain Be too good to me and you Cause they got slaves in Africa and they don't want' em to be free. 74 Johnny's thought process ad ds what literary critic Michael Thurston calls "geopolitical resonance" to the Spanish Civil War which aligns Hughes' "racial politics with the agenda of the international Left." 75 For a moment, it seems as though African (the Moor) and African American (J ohnny) are joined in a kind of black internationalism based on the shared experience of slavery. However, by the time Johnny calls on the Moor to join him in racial camaraderie, the Moor is dead, leaving a discordant end to the poem and preventing any sor t of international black harmony, at least between Johnny and the Moor. In doing so, Hughes' poem is meant to resonate across the Atlantic, not the Mediterranean, as it draws a closer association to a segregation era America (being a letter to Alabama spe cifically) than to the complexities of Spanish Moroccan relations. Even though Hughes' "Letter" stops with an abrupt disconnect caused by the Moor's 72 Hughes, "Letter from Spain Addressed to Alabama," 3. 73 Nelson, ed., Th e Wound and the Dream 19. 74 Hughes, "Letter from Spain Addressed to Alabama," 3. 75 Michael Thurston, Making Something Happen : American Political Poetry between the World Wars ( Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001 ), 129 130.
31 death, his "Post Card from Spain" written five months later, also from the perspective of Johnny offers ho pe that racial change is already happening in Spain which will translate into a similar anti segregationist sentiment in America: Folks over here don't treat me Like white folks used to do I don't think things'll ever Be like that again: I done m et up with folks Who'll fight for me Like I'm fightin' now in Spain. 76 Poems like "Letter from Spain Addressed to Alabama" and "Post Card from Spain" locate Hughes within the larger transnational community of international intellectuals who saw the Spa nish Civil War as the opportunity to apply their anti racism alongside their anti imperialism and anti fascism to fight for a desegregated world. Due in large part to his radical ideas about class warfare and racial solidarity, Hughes' Civil War poetry wa s deemed unfit for publication during the anti Communist political climate of post World War II America. In fact, Hughes himself came under fire for his political beliefs. In 1953, he was cross examined by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations better known for its two infamous members: Senators Jose ph McCarthy and John McClellan. The Committee's questioning severely changed Hughes' literary voice. He was called in to explain those writings of his that had been deemed by the Committee to favor Communism. As the transcript of the proceedings shows, Hughes carefully dodged any direct links to the Party and instead offered examples of newer writings which "certainly contradict the philosophy [of the Communist Party], and [that] certainly express my pro democratic 76 Langston Hug hes, "Post Card from Spain," in The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes ed. Arnold Rampersad ( New York: Vintage, 1995 ), 202.
32 belief and my faith in democracy." 77 After hearing Hughes' closing testimony, McClellan noted that, "The authorship of those remarks, I think, indicate[s] that you have had a change in your beliefs an d your convictions about this country. And I wish that these books that are in these libraries your earlier publications might be replaced with some of your later work." To this, Hughes responded: "I would be very happy if that were to happen." 78 After this event, Hughes frowned upon much of his own politically charged works, and this side of the poet remained concealed, both in his own memoirs and those anthologies of his work published during this time. Despite Hughes' determined efforts ex post facto to sideline his politics, his writings about the Spanish Civil War place him among those intellectuals who saw in Spain the much larger worldwide conflict to come. Hughes' broad depiction of "fascism" as representing class oppression and racism in the 19 30s allowed both the significance and interconnectedness of the Spanish conflict to shine across geographic, racial and class divides to reach a diverse audience His Spanish work proves that Hughes was more than just a folk poet with a dream deferred, bu t rather a vociferous social and political poet with a dynamic dream of a better world through racial and class cooperation. With his radical eloquence and his ability to link disparate peoples together for a common cause, the poet "was always searching f or justice for all." 79 When viewed from this perspective, Hughes' articles and poetry about the Spanish Civil War need no longer walk a "tightrope of words." Instead, they complete Hughes' overall contribution 77 Langston Hughes, "Closing testimony of Langston Hughes, poet and author, before the Senate Committee on Permanent Investigations" (Washington, D.C., 26 Mar. 1953), 2. 78 Hughes, "Closing testimony," 2. 79 Hughes and Berry, ed., xvii.
33 to literature and link him with the anti raci sm and anti fascism of the international Left in the 1930s.
34 Chapter Two: Shaping Politics into Poetry: Edwin Rolfe The Spanish Civil War was the epicenter of Edwin Rolfe's career. 80 Rolfe followed his political convictions to the battlefields of Spain t o take part in the collective effort by the Popular Front to defeat fascism. As a poet, editor of the Lincoln Battalion newsmagazine Volunteer for Liberty and volunteer soldier, Rolfe recorded his Marxist perspective of the war in his history of the Linco ln Battalion, published in 1939, and in a book of poetry published in 1951 as First Love and Other Poems This chapter analyzes how, during the 1920s and 30s, Rolfe developed his working class identity and strong devotion to the Communist Party, both of which resulted in his political radicalization. Rolfe became a cultural worker within the international Popular Front that gave rise to his Marxist interpretation of the Spanish Civil War. L ike many of his contemporaries, Rolfe saw the Spanish Civil War as a struggle to emancipate the working class. Moreover, his interpretation emphasized the international solidarity of workers in this revolutionary opportunity to fight fascism and its class oppression What is especially interesting in Rolfe's portraya l is that, even as a committed Marxist, he endowed the Civil War with a messianic Judeo Christian message of hope for deliverance from fascism. Finally Rolfe expressed a particularly American (rather than just broadly internationalist) interpretation of the war. As the "poet laureate" of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 81 Rolfe focused on these American volunteer s soldiers to prove two points: first, that the Americans who fought in the Spanish Civil War were 80 Cary Nelson, "Lyric Politics: the Poetry of Edwin Rolfe," in Edwin Rolfe: Collected Poems eds. Cary Nelson and Jefferson Hendricks (Urbana Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 2. 81 Cary Nelson and Jefferson Hendricks, eds., Edwin Rolfe: A Biographical Essay and Guide to the Edwin Rolfe Archive at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (Urbana Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 2.
35 the descendants of a distinctly American revolutio nary tradition begun in the Revolutionary War Secondly, he portrayed Americans as leaders of the Marxist revolutionary project on both sides of the Atlantic arguing that their anti fascist contributions to the Spanish Civil War should not be overlooked. In so doing, Rolfe reworked the Marxist tradition to include spaces for both religious and American historical dimensions in his interpretation of the Spanish Civil War. Rolfe's portrayal of the war also facilitated a transfer of his Marxism towards a r adical critique of McCarthyism after the war. Before the war, Rolfe's life was spent developing his political and poetic identity as a "working writer" of the Communist Party 82 He became part of the cultural front, which was, according to historian Micha el Denning, an "alliance of radical artists and intellectuals who made up the cultural' part of the Popular Front." 83 Within this group Rolfe's Marxist identity took shape in three interdependent ways, all of which mirror the radicalization of the Americ an Left in the 1920s and 30s and are integral to understanding his later Spanish Ci vil War service. First, Rolfe saw himself as both a worker and a poet, capable of using creativity to advocate on behalf of the working cl ass, a type of advocacy he viewed as rare among his fellow intellectuals. Significantly, this also entailed sacrificing his ethnic identity in order to more closely ally himself with the masses of the proletariat. Secondly, Rolfe joined the Communist Party in 1925, which served as a natu ral conduit for his radical poetry and political views. Finally, Rolfe internationalized the scope of his political views to include pro labor, anti fascist struggles around the globe. That, with the blessing of the Communist Party, led him to volunteer in the 82 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: A Biographical Essay 10. 83 Denning, xix.
36 International Brigades and focus his Marxist interpretation on the American volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War. As Rolfe matured during the Great Depression, he subdued his ethnic identity in favor of developing a radical style for him self as a cultural laborer, a role that combined poetry and po litics for the sake of the workers' revolution. Born as Solomon Fishman on September 7, 1909, to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Rolfe quickly adopted his parents' pro union stance and developed his own identity within the working class. 84 As he became more politically active in his teens, he adopted the pen name Edwin Rolfe to cement his identity not as a Jew, but as a member of the proletariat. From then on, as historian Cary Nelson has pointe d out, his alias became "a name associated for him with an identity as a working writer and with a strong sense of personal and political agency within history." 85 Therefore, Rolfe began writing what Nelson has termed "the proletarian' poetry of revolutio n" poetry that combined blistering social commentary with revolutionary anticipation. 86 For example, his poem "May Day Song" is explicit in its revolutionary demands: "Raise the red banner, for quickly comes the hour / That means the end of financiers and kingsWe must ring the death knell of the system we hateOnly he who works shall be the one who eats!" 87 For Rolfe, a Marxist workers' revolution wa s the only way to salvage the world from the destruction wrought by the capitalist order that had started th e Depression and stifled organized labor for so long. Later on, Rolfe would see fascism as the contemporary representation of that corrupt capitalist order. As historian Peter Carroll describes it, "Rolfe's literary enthusiasm 84 His father became a local union officer and his mother took part in the famous Paterson Silk Strike of 1913. 85 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: A Biograp hical Essay 10. 86 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: Collected Poems 6. 87 Ibid., 264.
37 reinforced his radical iden tity; writing became a means of articulating revolutionary ends, in both America and Spain. 88 As a poet, Rolfe emphasized the need for other intellectuals to join him in becoming radical cultural laborers in order to herald the Marxist revolution, first i n America and later in Spain. As he argued in a 1935 article in Partisan Review the working class revolution was to be trumpeted by a new class of politically radical poets. 89 According to Rolfe, "these poets the revolutionaries, whether of proletarian o rigin or not belong to us, the working class." 90 In this declaration, Rolfe identified himself with the working class, although not all Leftist intellectuals had done so. Many of his social critiques were, therefore, directed at fellow poets (including La ngston Hughes) in the Popular Front, for not producing enough work (in Rolfe's opinion) consistent with this revolutionary goal. Rather than become isolated in their intellec tualism, Rolfe declared in his poem "To My Contemporaries" that poets must learn what unionized workers already know: "the wisdom and the strength and the togetherness / of bodies phalanxed in a common cause / of fists tight clenched around a crimson banner," and only with this unified effort can the "life and death fight against a com mon foe" of capitalism be won. 91 According to Rolfe, this life and death struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie must be emphasized across the spectrum of the American intelligentsia, lest the lessons of the Depression be forgotten. Althoug h many of his contemporaries did not align themselves with a specific political party, Rolfe had no qualms about joining the Communist Party or adopting its 88 Carroll, 25. 89 Edwin Rolfe, "Poetry," Partisan Review 2 (1935), 32. 90 Ibid. 91 Edwin Rolfe, To My Contemporaries (New York: Dynamo, 1936), 11.
38 pro labor policies. He signed up in 1925 and quickly found kindred Marxist spirits in the Young Co mmunist League. Rolfe also took on a freelance writing job with the Party's newspaper, the Daily Worker which published several of his political cartoons. His first reporting assignment was to cover the case of Italian immigrant workers, anarchists Nico las Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, accused of robbing a store and murdering two people. After two controversial trials, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927. The Ameri can Left, including Rolfe, molded these Italian workers into martyrs for the Marxis t revolution; as Rolf e declared in the last line of his story for the Daily Worker : "The last moment belongs to us that agony is our triumph!" 92 Beginning with his coverage of the trial, Rolfe's involvement in the Communist Party led him to develop simil ar sympathies for workers around the globe as he saw fascism as the impediment to the Marxist revolution. In contrast, fascism became the international watchword for capitalism and class oppression. "By emphasizing the interrelatedness of fascist aggress ion in all parts of the world," as Carroll has explained, "the Communist party helped to forge a broad radical perspective about diverse episodes around the globe." 93 Therefore, as a Communist, Rolfe felt the need to expand his literary horizons to accommo date his new world view of politics: "We are," he wrote in Partisan Review "and must be in the deepest sense, internationalists and revolutionaries; not only politically, butin our work." 94 Like Hughes, Rolfe was aware of Mussolini's 1935 invasion of Et hiopia. He latched on to this short lived war as evidence of fascism steamrolling over the African nation as the rest of the world sto od by and watched. He described the Italian invaders in 92 Qtd. in Carroll, 26. 93 Carroll, 50. 94 Rolfe, "Poetry," 34.
39 his poem "Death by Water" as "the vultures descending on an Ethi opian plain: all of us were the living corpse, powerless, bleeding." 95 Likewise, he saw Nazi Germany's consolidation of power and repression of the working class as worrisome. In an article published i n the Daily Worker Rolfe wrote : "Socialist, Communist all anti fascist workers and all anti fascist intellectuals must band togetherin a concerted drive against the Nazi pest HERE AND NOW!" 96 Although Rolfe di d not intervene in Ethiopia or Germany at this time, he found his chance to employ his pro labor, a nti fascist politics with the support of the Party, by volunteering in the Communist organized International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Drawing upon his radicalization as a Communist within the larger American Popular Front and its corresponding c ultural front, Rolfe interpreted the Spanish Civil War as the international site of class conflict between the Republicans and their working class allies from other countries and the Nationalists backed by the fascist powers of Europe Rolfe left for Spai n on June 5, 1937, almost a year after the rebel generals announced their coup, to join the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the International Brigade s. From the beginning, Rolfe was struck by the dogged resistance of the Spanish working class in the defense of Madrid. In his poem "Elegia," he directly addressed the Spanish capital: "I remember the gaiety of your milicianos / my comrades in arms. What other city / in history ever raised a battalion of barbers / or reared its own young shirt sleeved generals? 97 In contrast, Rolfe tra nsferred his hatred for capitalists onto the Nationalists, because they are not manual laborers, but rather "the men whose mock 95 Edwin Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems ( Los Angeles: Wish Printing Company, 1951 ), 20. 96 Qtd. in Carroll, 51. 97 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 87. Emphasis in original.
40 morality / begins and ends with the tape of the stock exchanges." 98 The Nationalists became so vilifie d in Rolfe's eyes that he declared Spain's capital city of Madrid to be "locked in the bordello of the Universal Pimp [of fascism]who would use your flesh and blood again / as a whore for their wars and their wise investments." 99 The connection Rolfe make s between fascism and capitalism is clear: i n Rolfe's interpretation, Spanish cities like Madrid were only tools to be pro stituted for Nationalist gain. Instead of using money to buy their victory and prof iting from war, Rolfe pronounced in his poem "The Guerrillas," that the Spanish workers "won the right to penetrate, to know / wreckage of hope may be redeemed / the way to opennessand rouse to luminous birth." 100 This poem is a metaphor for the realization of a Marxist revolution of workers in Spain who have been pushed underground by the capitalistic fascists. As a foreign volunteer, Rolfe also recognized the international nature of the Spanish Civil War as it attracted anti fascist workers from all over the world who, in Rolfe's summation, contribute d to the transnational vision of the revolutionary Marxist project. Rolfe chose to narrate h is very first poem written about the Spanish Civil War, e ntitled "Entry," in second person to incorporate all soldiers fighting against fascism in Spain. To reflect this international solidarity, Rolfe also notes in the poem that original orders were dictated Catalan and then translated into English, Finnish, French, German and Italian, reinforcing the point that Spain's civil war is more than just a local conflict. According to literary critic Michael Thurston, this use of the "plural subject" echoes Rolfe's earlier, Depression era poetry "to evoke the forging of community both in shared 98 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 86. 99 Ibid., 86 87. 100 Ibid., 30.
41 politics and in opposition to and struggle against the enemy.'" 101 By Rolfe's ow n count, "men of fifty four nationalities fought for the Republic." 102 As an international site of working class anti fascism, Rolfe's Spain became "all lands and all times when clash / the hopes and the wills of the men in them." 103 By e nding on this note, Rolfe left open the possibility that foreign workers can unite with the Repub licans to fight fascism once and for all in the Spanish Civil War. Although for most Marxists, religion had no place in the prole tarian revolution, Rolfe charged his interpretati on of the Spanish Civil War with religious symbolism to emphasize the Republic and its volunteers as taking part in a messianic Marxist revolution. After experiencing the war firsthand, his tone shifted as he infused the class struggle with a dimension of Judeo Christian deliverance, particularly in his poetic references to Madrid. In "City of Anguish" Rolfe invoked the Old Testament to describe the Telefnica a communications building which dominated the Madrid skyline and became the prime target for Nat ionalist artillery during the city's siege like "Moses pointing, / agd but ageless, to the Promised Land." 104 In this poem, Republican held Madrid functioned as the "Pro mised Land" and Moses symbolized the deliverance of Madrid's valiant defenders from the fascist oppressors. Likewise, in his "Elegia" to Madrid, Rolfe e choed the 137 th Psalm to imbue the defense of Madrid with a sacred significance intended for future generations: "If I die before I can return to youmy sons will love you as their father di d." 105 Madrid became, in effect, the center of Rolfe's 101 Thurston, 63 102 Edwin Rolfe, The Lincoln Battalion: the Story of the Americans Who Fought in Spain in the International Brigades (New York: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 1939), 7. 103 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 12. 104 Ibid., 14. 105 Ibid., 90.
42 revolutionary hope for Marxist salvation. As such, the Resurrection also figured prominently in his poem "Prophecy in Stone" when Rolfe saw the indelible image of Christ in a ruined hacienda outside th e capital city: The deep patience men of another century engraved on these stone walls and images lines like words shouting: We are enslaved!' lines in prophetic thunder: We shall rise, conquer our conquerors.' 106 The idea behind the Re surrection that Jesus can grant eternal life and will one day return to judge humankind was compelling to Rolfe because, as he articulated in his poems, the Spanish Civil War wa s the moment at which the Nationalist bourgeoisie and its fascist allies we re t o be overthrown by the workers of the world, creating a working class utopia in Madrid. It is this messianic tone and commitment to Communism however, which rendered Rolfe's vision unpopular among publishers back home. Nelson has succinctly observed the poet's dilemma: "There was literally no place to publish [Rolfe's poetry]" due to the both the Communist Party's rejection of the biblical allusions in the poem and the mainstream publishers' aversions to Communist affiliated authors. 107 Even so, that did not stop Rolfe from inserting a religious importance into the Spanish Civil War as it became for him a class struggle with spiritual significance. Rolfe also shaped his Marxist interpretation of the Spanish Civil War around American volunteers in the Abra ham Lincoln Battalion and emphasized this group's comparatively small contribution to the overall war effort. Although less than 3,000 Americans served in Spain (service that was never formally recognized, as it was illegal 106 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 42. 107 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: Collected Poems 43.
43 for Americans to fight in anoth er country's civil war ), Rolfe constructed a nationalistic narrative about these "premature anti fascists both in h is poetry and a history of the Battalion. 108 This narrative served two purposes: first, it showcased these volunteers as contemporary repre sentatives of America's revolutionary, class conscious past. Secondly, Rolfe saw this tradition and the American volunteers who represented it as having a leading part to play in the international Marxist revolutionary project For Rolfe, American volunt eers in the International Brigades became the embodiment of a distinctly American revolutionary tradition stretching back to the Revolutionary War In the aforementioned poem "Entry," Rolfe proclaimed : "Spain was yesterday's Russia, tomorrow's China, / ye s and the thirteen seaboard states." 109 Not only does this reference intertwine the Spanish Civil War with international revolutionary moments like th e Russian Revolution of 1917 and communist upheaval in 1930s China but it also characterizes Spain's civil war as an extension of American revolutionary history. The American volunteers in Spain were the class conscious descendants of those patriots who rejected British colonial rule and declared their revolutionary independence as the "thirteen seaboard stat es." Likewise, i n his history of the Lincoln Battalion, Rolfe emphasized the American s who took part in the winter batt le of Teruel, which he nicknamed "Spain's Valley Forge." 110 Recalling the bitter conditions of the Continental Army's camp in the winter of 1777 78, Rolfe wrote that, in Spain, "Not only casualties, but the cold and the mud of the long campaign had sapped [the volunteers'] strength." 111 Even Caroll, the leading historian on the Battalion, paints the volunteers with a 108 Qtd. in Carroll, 287. 109 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 9. 110 Rolfe, The Lincoln Battalion 158. 111 Ibid., 181.
44 nationalistic brush, rat her than as merely a part of the international anti fascist coalition. They become, in Carroll's estimation, "an army unprecedented in American history, based on ideology, motivated by principles." 112 In contrast, Rolfe painted the Nationalist coup as a tr aitorous "rebellion of Francisco Franco and his fellow Benedict Arnolds." 113 In this passage, Rolfe chose the quintessential traitor of American history General Benedict Arnold, who attem pted to surrender the crucial American fort at West Point, New York, t o the British for money and military rank to describe how the governments of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy broke their commitment to the Europea n non intervention agreement and betrayed Spain by supporting Franco. In Rolfe's portrayal, Arnold became a us eful model for the corrupt capitalism he saw as financing the Nationalist war effort. In his Marxist interpretation, Rolfe saw connections between the Spanish Civil War and American history connections that were reinforced by the volunteers themselves. F or their part, these volunteers also defined themselves using America's revolutionary past by voting on their military organizational names. There was the Abraham Lincoln battalion (to which Rolfe was attached), the George Washington battalion, the John Br own artillery battery (in reference to the 19 th century radical abolitionist) and the Tom Mooney machine gun company (named for an imprisoned San Francisco labor leader). As Carroll has pointed out, "Such language enabled Americans to define the Spanish w ar in familiar terms: the Lincoln brigade was fighting to protect a government of the people." 114 Moreover, since the Nationalist coup was illegal just like the secession of the South in the U.S. Civil War this language allowed "[American] 112 Carroll, 14. 113 Rolfe, The Lincoln Battalion 16. 114 Carroll, 73.
45 anti fascists of all political colors to criticize [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt's policy of neutrality; on technical grounds, the United States should have supported the legal Republic." 115 In his works, Rolfe attempted to reconstruct the narrative of these volunteers' service, allying their anti fascism with America's revolutionary past to show the important role these volunteers had to play in the working class Marxist project in both Spain and America. In his po em "Biography," Rolfe constructed a narrative history of a fictional volunteer that functions as a metaphor to describe these working class Americans who contributed their labor to the international anti fascist cause. The main character is John Makepeace, a volunteer from tiny Sauk City, Wisconsin, who wan ted to work on airplanes. Makepeace is hardly an intellectual. Like many volunteers, he dropped out of school at 15 because, "Print blurred before me, / became cloudy in my mind / the mind that hummed with motorsthe heart of steel: the valves in perfect motion / forcing the oil like blood through the veins, / the gas like air through the lungs." 116 As a worker, he literally becomes the machines on which he labors. Once in Spain, Makepeace "breathed the air of the bird, felt blood's flood in my ears. / Th is is my history." 117 He applied his labor to becoming a pilot for the Republic. As historian Robert Rosenstone has shown, the majority of the American volunteers were workers like the fictional John Makepeace. Cataloguing the occupations of volunteers in the 1960s, Rosenstone found that 20 percent came as seamen in addition to large numbers of teachers, miners, longshoremen and steelworkers. 118 Likewise, as Carroll has noted, "most of the volunteers were blue collar 115 Carroll, 73. 116 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 54 117 Ibid., 55. 118 Robert Rosenstone, Crusade of the Left (New York: Pegasus, 1969), 368 371.
46 workers." 119 And Carroll quotes from the findings of historian Frances Patai that "most were born in urban centers from lower middle class, working class, or downright poor socio economic backgrounds.'" 120 Rolfe's fictional John Makepeace groups these working class experiences together to show ho w Americans labored in the important anti fascist class struggle in Spain. One of these American volunteers whom Rolfe saw as a leader in the revolutionary Marxist struggle in Spain was Arnold Reid. In his poem "Epitaph," Rolfe highlighted Reid's ultima te sacrifice in Spain as evidence of the significant American contribution to international Marxist anti fascism. Reid was killed, according to Rolfe's dedication, on July, 27, 1938 at Villalba de los Arcos. Reid was known as Arnold Reisky when he first met Rolfe almost a decade earlier in college at the University of Wisconsin. Like Rolfe, Reid masked his Jewish identity by changing his name in order to participate in the political activities of the Communist Party. 121 Rolfe opened the poem by describing "Deep in this earth / deeper than grave was dug / ever, or body of man ever lowered, / runs my friend's blood, / spilled here." 122 It is no grave, according to Rolfe, but rather a "plot where the self growing seed / sends its fresh fingers to turn soil as ide, over and under earth ceaselessly growing." 123 As seen in the previous chapter, the organic image of sacrifice as a seed "grows distinctively in Spanish soil." 124 Reid's sacrifice became the embodiment of a Marxist commitment to revolutionary change, as Rolfe explained in his pedantic poem "Homage to Karl Marx," wherein "we [Marx's] 119 Carroll, 16. 120 Ibid. 121 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Ro lfe: Collected Poems 14. 122 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 27. 123 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 28. 124 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: Collected Poems 15.
47 countless heirs / rise dauntless in all landsto impregnate the earth with newer life, to win / the final battle; and, classless, to assume / the final right to our supremacy ." 125 By being buried in Spain, Reid literally impregnated the earth with his Marxist principles. For Rolfe, Reid was the representation of the important role that American Marxists played in the international anti fascist class struggle of the Spanish Civ il War. By recalling images of America's revolutionary past and using both fictional and real examples of American volunteers, Rolfe imbued his Marxist portrayal of the Spanish Civil War in a strongly nationalistic manner to prove his point that Americans were actively engaged in the international class struggle against fascism. Despite the domestic unpopularity of all things Communist and Marxist from the Spanish Civil War into the Cold War, Rolfe's poetry never lost its radical, class conscious edge as he reoriented his Marxism towards fighting political oppression in America. T he U.S. governme nt greeted volunteers returning from Spain (including Rolfe) with suspicion. This was due mainly to the increasing tensions on the Left caused by the anti Commun ist fervor of the McCarthy era. It seemed that Rolfe had left one conflict to begin another: the battle against McCarthyism. He found work after the Spanish Civil War with the Soviet news agency TASS where he was employed until 1943. That year, in an i ronic twist of fate, Rolfe was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Texas for basic training. Instead of using his previous military experience, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation met Rolfe as he stepped off the train at Camp Wolters, presu mably to question his loyalty to the United States because he had been identified as a Communist who had served illegally in Spain. In Texas, the realization hit Rolfe that there were very different forces at play in this "second world war." For Rolfe, 125 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: Collected Poems 78.
48 t he Spanish Civil War was the precursor to the more widely recognized anti fascism of World War II; for mainstream America, however, it was simply an example of Communist subversion. As Nelson notes, "Training to fight [in World War II], he could not help but recall that he had fought five years earlier with very different passions and out of an articulate sense of history and history's entanglements that had little equivalent among the draftees he met [in Texas]." 126 For Rolfe, the crucial anti fascist mome nt had already passed with the defeat of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War. Before he could fight again, he was discharged due to amoebic dysentery a physical, rather than political, condition he acquired in Spain. 127 By the time Rolfe had moved to L os Angeles to write for Hollywood in the late 1940s, the Red Scare was underway and he was blacklisted, effectively preventing him from publishing his Marxist interpretation of the Spanish Civil War. As Nelson has noted, Rolfe's perspective appealed to Re publican refugees more than American audiences: "Elegia" was first published in Mexico through a chain of Spanish notable exiles, including Luis Buuel and Manuel Altolaguirre. The latter was so moved by Rolfe's poem that he printed it in pamphlet form and distributed it across Latin America, free of charge. 128 Unlike Langston Hughes, Rolfe was never called to testify about his Communist sympathies. It was probably just as well; the poems from this period in his life include such incendiary titles as, "The Poisoned Air Befouled the Whole Decade," "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been," and "Political Prisoner 123456789," all of which discuss and decry the "subtlest lies and slanders" 129 characteristic of the Cold War 126 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Ro lfe: A Biographical Essay 45. 127 Ibid., 44. 128 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: Collected Poems 43. 129 Ibid., 253.
49 repression of "subversive elements" of America n society. Rolfe's "Little Ballad for Americans 1954" is perhaps the most explicit in its critique of the era : Brother, brother, best avoid your workmate Words planted in affection can spout a field of hate. Housewife, housewife, never trust your nei ghbor A chance remark may boomerang to five years at hard labor. Student, student, keep mouth shut and brain spry Your best friend Dick Meriwell's employed by the F.B.I. Lady, lady, make your phone calls frugal The chief of all Inquisitors has ru led the wire tap legal. Daughter, daughter, learn soon your heart to harden They've planted stoolies everywhere; why not in kindergarten? Lovers, lovers, be careful when you're wed The wire tap grows in living room, in auto, and in bed. Give full allegiance only to circuses and bread No person's really trustworthy until he's dead. 130 These poems were not reprinted until they appeared in Nelson and fellow editor Jefferson Hendricks' 1997 version of Rolfe's collected poems. Thus, Rolfe remained "f orever captive of that other war" in his efforts to portray the Spanish Civil War as the international Marxist revolutionary moment. 131 Although embittered by the anti Communist and, in general, anti Left atmosphere which had engulfed America near the end o f his life, Rolfe proudly blazoned his poetry with his radical politics to spur revolutionary change in his world. Even his cha racters, as Nelson has noted, live as agents within history, and when they act because action is possible they often pay the pr ice the times exact for their agency." 132 In this sense, Rolfe's own life mirrors his 130 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: Collected Poems 260. 131 Rolfe, First Love and Other Poems 91. 132 Nelson and Hendricks, Edwin Rolfe: Col lected Poems 17. Emphasis in original.
50 poetry. By interpreting the Spanish Civil War as the international Marxist class conflict, Rolfe saw the war as the site of radical revolutionary change. To further emph asize the war's significance, he characterized the Republic as the Promised Land of the working class and inserted a Judeo Christian messianic hope of salvation for those who labored in the Republic's defense. Finally, Rolfe focused on those Americans who fought in the International Brigades to remember their sacrifices as the patriotic continuation of America's revolutionary past and to show the important role that Americans had to play in international anti fascism Throughout his life, Rolfe's poetry was fundamentally shaped by his Marxist politics. And, even though he died in 1954, that poetry never lost its radical Marxist edge forged in the Spanish Civil War.
51 Chapter Three: Explaining a Few T hings: Pablo Neruda Like the politically Left leaning intellectuals of North America, many Latin American intellectuals were attracted to the Spanish Civil War as well; the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was one among them who saw the civil war in Spain as the international revolutionary moment of Marxist class s truggle. However, Neruda also channeled his Marxism into a unique interpretation of the war drawing upon not only his identity as a Marxist, but also as a Spanish speaking intellectual, an international diplomat and a popular poet. As such, the Spanish C ivil War had a profound effect on Neruda who, up until this time, had been isolated both politically and poetically in distant consular positions in the Far East. As this chapter explain s the Spanish Civil War was the catalytic moment for Neruda that d efined his politics and redefined his poetry for the rest of his life. He applied his newfound Marxism in a collection of poems entitled Spain in the Heart that situate d him within the larger Leftist intellectual project to interpret the Spanish Civil War as the defining moment of the 1930s. Like Hughes and Rolfe, Nerud a saw the Spanish Civil War as an international Marxist class struggle for the emancipation of workers from the reactionary forces of fascism. However, while Marxism envisioned the industr ial worker as the specific candidate for a workers' revolution, Neruda saw the Spanish peasantry, as well as its workers, as forming the revolutionary class fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Stemming from Neruda's perception of the peasantry as Spain's r adical strength, Neruda also imbued this class conflict with a specific moral aspect; he argued that the Republican forces were the embodiment of an organic egalitarianism in
52 contrast to the immoral, capitalistic and foreign fascists. Finally, Neruda saw fascism through a racist lens as a foreign imperialist force seeking to dominate indigenous peoples in both Spain and Latin America. In this sense, his Marxist portrayal of the Spanish Civil War became the starting point for an anti imperialist politics t hat reoriented Neruda towards class inequities in Latin America. Pablo Neruda was born Neftal Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in Parral, Chile to a railroad worker father and a schoolteacher mother. He quickly left his remote hometown and escaped its claustroph obic atmosphere through writing. By his teenage years he a dopted the penname Pablo Neruda ( the surname he borrowed from proto p opulist Czech writer Jan Neruda), which was an act that, in the words of author and editor Jean Franco, "signified a refusal to be limited by his provincial background." 133 As a poet, Neruda constantly changed styles seeking new ways to observe the people and places that made up his world. His first collection of poetry, Book of Twilights was published in 1923 while he lived in San tiago. Shortly thereafter, his intensely erotic Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair was published as according to literary critic Roland Bleiker, "a volume that speaks of love in the language of everyday life." 134 As the love that once characterized e veryday life vanished, only to be replaced by the horrors of the First World War and the Great Depression, Neruda's poetry shifted once more to reflect the surreal unraveling of the world in his books Towards the Infinite Man and the first two volumes of R esidence on Earth As of 1935, Neruda had yet to inject radical politics into his poetry. 133 Jean Franco, Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems (London: Penguin, 1975), 14. 134 Bleiker, 1131.
53 Neruda began his political career quite separately from his literary career; the two were only joined in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War. In 1927, without an y political credentials, he was appointed the Chilean consul to Burma a post that started him on a diplomatic tour of the Far East which included jobs in faraway Ceylon, Java and Singapore. As Bleiker points out, "Most Latin American countries, including Chile, had a long tradition of sending poets men that is abroad as consuls or sometimes even as ambassadors." 135 Although part of that tradition, Neruda's time abroad was very difficult. As literary critic Ren de Costa has described, "Without a salary, li ving on a few meager consular fees, and without any Spanish speaking friends [Neruda] was virtually isolated in an alien cultureThis time, though, Neruda went out of his way to explain to everyone who would listen, how, alone and cut off from the Hispanic world, he was forced to develop an unusually concentrated mode of expression." 136 As a result, Neruda's first two books of poetry in the Residence trilogy, although written in Spanish, do not show a Chilean Neruda, but rather a poet encased in his own worl d. He returned briefly to South America in 1934 to become consul in Buenos Aires, Argentina and was then transferred to Spain in 1935. This latest transfer became Neruda's opportunity to put down roots in a familiar Spanish culture giving him the chance to combine his poetry and his politics in the revolutionary moment of the Spanish Civil War. While in Spain just before the war, Neruda associated himself with a key group of avant garde Spanish intellectuals that helped him form a poetic as well as poli tical commitment to the Republic. Although originally stationed in Barcelona, he was quickly transferred to Madrid, according to his Memoirs because of his preference for poetry 135 Bleiker, 1132. 136 Ren de Costa, The Poetry of Pablo Neruda ( Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979 ), 5
54 over mathematics. As Neruda remembered, his boss told him: "Pablo, you sho uld go live in Madrid. That's where the poetry is.'" 137 The "poetry" was personified by a group of Spanish writers including Rafael Alberti, Miguel Hernandez, Federico Garcia Lorca and Raul Gonzalez Tun (to name only a few) who made up the "Generation of 1927," a movement of Spanish intellectuals that sought inspiration in both the high cultured poets of the Spanish Baroque (principally the succinct wit of Francisco de Quevedo and the ostentatious diction of Luis de Gngora) and the popular traditions and folklore of the Spanish peasantry. 138 Though these writers occupied their own poetic niche within this literary movement, they all united in support of the Republic at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In fact, Alberti and Hernandez fought in the Rep ublican Army and Lorca's assassination by Nationalist sympathizers was one of the driving forces behind Neruda's radical political and poetic support of the Republic. 139 In Neruda's Marxist portrayal, the Spanish Civil War was the culmination of years of r eactionary rule by the military, the Catholic Church and the landed aristocracy, a regressive combination that did not allow Spain to develop industrially and that did not provide the Spanish peasant space to grow into an organized proletarian worker. In his frankly titled poem "Spain Poor through the Fault of the Rich," Neruda explains how, even as the rest of the world including his own Chile are modernizing, cultivating and producing, Spain remains "guarded / by triangular guards with guns, / by sad rat colored priests, / by lackeys of the huge [assed] king." 140 The "triangular guards" refer to the 137 Neruda, Mem orias 116. 138 Although most of the writers of the Generation of 1927 were highly educated and sophisticated, Miguel Hernandez was a peasant with little formal education. Neruda would later champion Hernandez, who fought for the Republic, as the representat ive of the Republic and its fighting peasantry in his memoirs (see pages 118 and 125). 139 Neruda, Memorias 122. 140 Pablo Neruda, Residencia en la tierra trans. Donald D. Walsh ( New York: New Directions, 1973), 251.
55 three cornered hats characteristic of the Spanish Civil Guard, an institution founded in 1844 shortly after the First Carlist War to act as a police force and, when necessary, disperse the "inevitable outbreaks of protest by the underrepresented majority" that characterized Spanish society well into the twentieth century. 141 Just two years before the outbreak of civil war, the Civil Guard and the military were ca lled out to crush such an outburst a miner's strike in the northern region of Asturias which resulted in a brutal repression that was organized by then Major Francisco Franco. 142 The Catholic Church was also a reactionary institution that exercised spiritua l authority over much of Spanish daily life. For Neruda, the "sad, rat colored priests" constantly prodded the landless peasantry like animals to only "pray, beasts, pray, / for a god with [an ass] as huge as the king's [ass]," instead of working to bette r themselves. 143 The poet's ire is equally reserved for the landowning nobles who used the peasantry to fight for land during the Reconquest and then hoarded the land and the glory for themselves. In Neruda's poem, they are "idle lords [who] ordered you: D o not sow the land, do not give birth to mines, / do not breed cows, but contemplate / the tombs, visit each year / the monument of Columbus the sailor" 144 In these lines, Columbus functions as the symbol of the aristocracy not because he was a noble (he w asn't even a Spaniard), but because he discovered an entirely new world where land could be gloriously conquered in the name of the aristocracy. These hollow symbols and reactionary institutions are not what give Spain its strength, according to Neruda's account. Although this regressive combination 141 Paul Preston, The Spanish Civil War: R eaction, Revolution, and Revenge ( New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2006 ), 23. 142 Beevor, 15 143 Neruda, Residencia 251 52. Translation modified. 144 Ibid., 253.
56 had ground the Spanish peasant into the earth, Neruda saw a particularly revolutionary potential in this class of people to become an organized Marxist proletariat. As such, Neruda emphasized the hard lands o f Spain as molding a hardy peasantry whose strength comes from the unchanging land. As he wrote in "What Spain Was Like," the country was "tense and lean" with "mineral countrysides[and] violent / and delicate vineyards." 145 It is this landscape that give s rise to a "humble people[with their] animal isolation next to [their] intelligence" who made up the backbone of Spain on which all past institutions including the military, clergy and aristocracy depended. 146 Even though he was born in Chile and lived i n the Far East, Neruda identified with this harsh landscape and its people. Spain became an "Ancestral stone, pure among the regions / of the worldI love your hard earth, your humble bread, / your humble people, how even to the deep seat / of my existenc e there is the lost flower of your wrinkled / villages, motionless in time." 147 To hammer home his point about Spain's strength as stemming from its countryside, he includes a list of 124 villages without mentioning a single major metropolitan area. As Ble iker has noted, "Neruda's poems hold on to faint voices and perspectives that may otherwise have vanished into the dark holes of historical narratives." 148 The Spanish peasants give Neruda's Marxist interpretation of the Civil War a unique flavor because th ey are the class of people who will become radically organized as a proletariat fighting against fascism. The last lines of the poem reflect this connection as the peasant transforms into the "blue and victorious / proletarian of petals 145 Neruda, Residencia 265. 146 Ibid., 266. 147 Ibid., 265. 148 Bleiker, 1130.
57 and bullets, uniqu ely / alive and somnolent and resounding," 149 foreshadowing those Spaniards who defended the Republic. In Neruda's Marxist interpretation of the civil war peasants, alongside union workers, miners, railroadmen, became living symbols of the anti fascist caus e and were the main characters in his poetry. By foregrounding these characters in his poems, Neruda emphasized the Spanish Civil War as not a clash between governments or armies, but rather as a struggle of peasants and workers against the Nationalist in vaders. For example, the poem "The Unions at the Front" asked: "Where are the miners, where are / the rope makers, the leather / curers, those who cast the nets? Where are they?" 150 These are the people (in addition to the peasantry) who participated in an d benefited from the growing union culture under the Republic of Spain's two major workers' organizations, the National Confederation of Workers (CNT) and the General Union of Workers (UGT) forming a working class sense of solidarity. In fact, as historia n Gerald Brenan has noted, the Land Workers' Federation of the UGT was the leading force in bettering the peasantry's lot through government sponsored agricultural collectivization before the Civil War. 151 According to Neruda, these Spaniards are not at the ir jobs because they have a more important job to do during the Civil War; they are "with a rifle," fighting the Nationalist "vipers." 152 Even though they are now soldiers, they do not lose their working class identity in Neruda's portrayal. Instead, "in t he virtue / of the scorched noon," peasants and industrial laborers took their unionized solidarity straight to the front lines and found a common enemy while "looking out over the debris" of the Spanish 149 Neruda, Residencia 26 7. 150 Ibid., 291. 151 Brenan, 275 152 Neruda, Residencia 293.
58 battlefields. 153 Just as these workers formed the bac kbone of the Spanish economy, they now form the ranks of the People's Army, and Neruda saw his job as championing this proletarian combination of soldiers. As Bleiker has stated, "Neruda's voice was the voice of the working class, the voice of the peasant s and factory workers, of ordinary people whose perspectives are so often obliterated." 154 Rather than have these perspectives annihilated by the Nationalists, Neruda sought to foreground these working class voices in his Marxist interpretation of the Spani sh Civil War where he found the concept of peasant industrial solidarity more valuable than the number of weapons employed or the troops conscripted. What was also valuable in Neruda's Marxist interpretation was the war's international character as the re volutionary moment for workers of the entire world. As such, he celebrated the international anti fascists who made up the Communist organized International Brigades fighting for the Republic. In his poem "Arrival in Madrid of the International Brigades" Neruda hailed the "masterful fighters of theardent stone brigade" as they marched through a shell shocked Madrid. 155 While their actual contribution to the Republican war effort is still a point of debate amongst scholars, Beevor notes that, "the selfless ness of the International Brigaders' motives cannot be doubted. They saw fascism as an international threat, and the Brigades appeared to offer the best way of fighting it." 156 In his poem, the international volunteers immediately become Neruda's "Brothers both politically and poetically. They are "Comrades[who have] come from far, / far away, / come from your corners, from your lost 153 Neruda, Residencia 291. 154 Bleiker, 1130. 155 Neruda, Residencia 271. 156 Beevor, 160.
59 fatherlandsto defend the Spanish city." 157 These volunteers employed their Communist principles to help defend Spain from the Nationalists and to fight fascism in their "lost fatherlands" as well. Neruda saw his job as a poet to amplify these volunteers' revolutionary anti fascist commitments: "from now on / let your pureness and your strength, your solemn story / be known b y children and by men, by women and by old men, / let it reach all men without hope." 158 As political comrades and brothers in arms, these international volunteers expanded Neruda's scope of the Spanish Civil War as they not only reinforced the Republican Army, but also became representatives of the larger anti fascist movement taking place across the globe. For Neruda, the common enemy facing this Republic and its international Communist allies was once again made up of the reactionary branches of Spani sh society the bishop, the banker and the Colonel all of which reappear in the service of fascism in Neruda's grisly poem "Almera." In this poem, Neruda gives each fascist "table companion" a bowl "overflowing, with the dirty blood of the poor, / for eac h morning, for each week, forever and ever" so that they never forget their atrocities and the sacrifices of the innocent Republicans who died in the Civil War. 159 The bishop's bowl is filled "with remnants of iron, with ashes, with tearswith sobs and fall en walls." 160 The iron and fallen walls represent the destruction caused by the Nationalists whom, as shown in a period picture in Beevor's Battle for Spain were often blessed by clergy before going into battle. The tears and sobs then, signify the mourni ng Republicans. The banker's bowl contains "cheeks / of children from the happy 157 Neruda, Residencia 273. 158 Ibid. 159 Ibid., 279. 160 Ibid., 277.
60 Southwith split axles and trampled heads." 161 The "happy South" refers to the southern agrarian region of Andalusia that was home to "richmen here and there" who profited from the labor of the peasantry in an almost feudal society. 162 The Colonel is presented with his bowl at a garrison party he attends with his wife; the bowl is there to remind him, "above the oaths and the spittle" of the atrocities the military has committed by invading Spain. 163 As literary critic Marilyn Rosenthal has pointed out, through its visual and olfactory imagery, Neruda's poem has a strong element of class cannibalism wherein the "higher echelons of the social hierarchytake sensuous pleasure in what they were eating," which is the lower classes. 164 Neruda unleashed a particular anger of Dantesque proportions at the major Nationalist generals Franco, Mola and Sanjurjo who are each condemned to Hell for their crimes as betrayers (Neruda used this term s even times in just nine lines to describe Sanjurjo). 165 Although they claim to be on a righteous reconquest of Spain, these fascist elements the Church, the landowning elites or the military were betraying the democratically elected Spanish Republic, accord ing to Neruda. Furthermore, as literary critic Greg Dawes has noted, "if the traditional bourgeoisie is carrying out a war against the laboring classes, it follows that the poet is among those working and is subject to the same aggression." 166 Once the o pposing sides had been assembled, Neruda injected a particular moral agenda into his Marxist interpretation of the Spanish Civil War. He argued that the Republicans were the symbols of an organic peasant egalitarianism that stood in 161 Neruda, Residencia 277. 162 Ibid., 279. 163 Ibid. 164 Marilyn Rosenthal, Poetry of the Spanish Civil War ( New York: New York University Press, 1975 ), 92 165 De Costa, 98. 166 Greg Dawes, Verses against the Darkness: Pablo Neruda's Poetry and Politics (Lewisburg, PA. Bucknell University Press, 2006), 216.
61 opposition to the inva ding Nationalists. As Dawes notes, Neruda's "objectives with socialism have to do not merely with the development of the economic base, but also with political conscious raising and, more poignantly, the evolution of morality." 167 To achieve this moral objective, Neruda's poem "Antitankers" shows this egalitarianism in action as the Republicans are portrayed as literally rooted in a righteous cause. "In other words," as Dawes has argued, "Neruda associates egalitarianism with sophisticated moral underst anding." 168 Previously these Spaniards were economically repressed and politically disorganized as peasants, fishermen, farmers and builders "many times fallenmany times blotted out" in Spain's past. 169 According to Neruda, "That's how you were, planted / i n the fields, dark, like seeds, lying, waiting." 170 In Neruda's organic portrayal, these workers were just waiting for a revolutionary moment to band together and free themselves from their economically stratified past. Neruda saw the war as this revolutio nary moment and recognized that the Spanish peasants and workers are growing out of the earth to form an organized, egalitarian resistance to fascism. As such, Neruda portrayed these "oaken heroes" and "pure sons of the earth" as responding to the princip le of "Liberty." 171 Significantly, Liberty found these men "in the minesalong the roadsin the countryside" of Spain instead of in halls of government, military ranks or churches. 172 Therefore, the morality that these soldiers embody is a purely organic ega litarianism free from institutional corruption. Neruda noted that, as soldiers, these peasants and workers, 167 Da wes, 20. 168 Ibid. 169 Neruda, Residencia 297. 170 Ibid., 295. 171 Ibid., 295 7. 172 Ibid., 297.
62 launched not just a pale bit of explosive but your deep steaming heart, a lash as destructive and blue as gunpowder. You rose up, noble, hea venly against the mountains of cruelty, naked sons of earth and glory. 173 Neruda goes on to say that these soldiers even constitute their own egalitarian "race of hearts and roots." 174 By rising up from the earth and fighting fascism, the peasantry and the industrial workers became liberators of Spanish virtue and the moral models of the organic proletarian mentality that Neruda envisioned for the Marxist future. Neruda also inserted an anti imperialist dimension into his Marxist interpretation of the Sp anish Civil War as the war became for him a struggle of the indigenous Republicans against the foreign imperialist fascists. This dichotomy took shape in two ways: first, Neruda argued that the Nationalists were only invading the "natal mother" of Spain t o profit from its destruction; 175 and second, in stark contrast to Langston Hughes' racial interpretation of the Civil War, Neruda's racist tone links the Nationalists and their Moorish soldiers as bestial outsiders who are exploiting the "white cit[ies]" of Spain for their own bloodthirsty benefit. 176 What makes the Nationalists imperialistic in Neruda's eyes is their single mindedness to profit, in both Spanish blood and money, from the maternal Republic. Therefore, Franco's legions are depicted as trampli ng the bosoms and swallowing up the "holy milk / of the mothers of Spain." 177 They are referred to as "devouring 173 Neruda, Residencia 295. 174 Ibid., 297. 175 Ibid., 249. 176 Ibid., 297. 177 Ibid., 283.
63 monstershowling with rifles and teeth covered with blood." 178 These imperialistic "devourers" are specifically named in his poem "Madrid (1937)" as "the bishop of turbid scruff, the fecal and feudal / young masters, the general in whose hand / jingle thirty coins." 179 The Nationalist general is profiting from the invasion while the dirty bishop the symbol of the Church and the "fecal" landowning yo ung masters are there to make sure that Spain stays subjugated in a feudal society after the war. Likewise, Neruda notes in his poem "Battle of the Jarama River" that the goal of the ravenous Nationalists is to suck Spain dry: "The bloodthirsty drank / yo ur waters, face up they drank water: Spanish water and olive fields / filled them with oblivion." 180 After the Nationalists slaked their thirst for Spanish blood and resources, the land is barren, devoid even of water and the durable olive trees that had do tted the "furrowed motherland" of Spain. Neruda's anti imperialism also adopted a racist tone as he depicted the fascist invaders as subhuman. As literary critic Salvatore Bizzarro has noted about the poems of Spain in the Heart, "Neruda utilizes diffe rent colors to present a portrait of the Spain of the Civil War: white represents the hope of the Republican fighters; black, the defeat of the [f]ascists." 181 Taking Bizzarro's observation one step further, Neruda's characterization of Madrid as the "white city" also denoted the Republic as having a racial supremacy over the Nationalists. 182 The indigenous Republicans are the "human shore" of Spain with a pure "electric blood" that kills on contact "sacks of Moors, sacks of traitors." 183 The color black is re served for these bestial traitors. Unlike Hughes, 178 Neruda, Residencia 271. 179 Ibid., 301. 180 Ibid., 275. 181 Salvatore Bizzarro, Pablo Ne ruda: All Poets the Poet ( Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1979 ) 30. 182 Neruda, Residencia 297. 183 Ibid., 301.
64 Neruda made no distinction between the Nationalists and the Moorish soldiers they are all "African jackals." 184 On the one hand, this reflects the reality that the Army of Africa, in fact, consisted of sold iers from Africa, whether Spaniards who served in Spanish Morocco or indigenous Africans who were enlisted into Spanish armies. But, by linking the Spanish officers with their Moorish conscripts, Neruda placed the Nationalists outside of Spain so that the y are not "Nationalists" at all, but rather an inhuman horde of foreign invaders. By invading the native Spanish land, these "hyenas," "vipers" and "jackals that the jackal would spurn" became capitalist colonizers. 185 In that sense, according to Dawes, th e Nationalists are worse than beasts': they are so alienated from their fellow citizens and so much in need of exploiting the rest of the citizenry to maintain their wealth and economic power that they can only cause widespread social misery." 186 This impe rialist vision of the Nationalists as bestial outsiders seeking only to profit from their conquests foreshadowed Neruda's Marxist critique of capitalism in Latin America. After the war, Neruda took up a position as Chilean consul general in Mexico that la sted until 1943. Then he returned to Chile and became an official member of the Chilean Communist Party, winning election as a Senator in 1945. He continued his Marxist viewpoint in Latin America as is evident in a 1961 review stating: "Neruda views Span ish American life as a struggle between the good and poor, lovingly attached to their land, and the evil rich men of prey and violence." 187 This passage could easily describe the poems of Spain in the Heart published more than a decade years earlier. Howev er, it refers to Neruda's grandiose General Canto published in 1950. In this continental 184 Neruda, Residencia 271. 185 Ibid., 259. 186 Dawes, 200. 187 Luis Monguio, "Nationalism and Social Discontent as Reflected in Spanish American Literatu re," in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (334, March 1961), 70.
65 history, Neruda's ire shifted from the Nationalists to the "obese emperors" of an insatiable capitalist imperialism who are ravaging Latin America at the head of U.S. companies, symbolized in succession by Standard Oil, Anaconda Mining and United Fruit. 188 In that sense, as De Costa has noted, the poems of Spain in the Heart "close one cycle and clear the way for another." 189 Neruda's Marxist viewpoint was not always rea dily accepted by his critics or his government. In fact, he was forced into exile from 1948 until 1952 by the government of Gabriel Gonzalez Videla in a Latin American version of McCarthyism. Likewise, until the 1980s Neruda's main critics devalued the M arxist dimension of Neruda's poetry. "As regards Neruda's commitment to Communist politics and espousal of Marxism," writes Dawes, "liberal critics either refuse to delve into the complexities of the poet's worldview, or they denounce his political belief s with scant or debatable evidence." 190 However, as Spain in the Heart shows, Neruda's Marxism was central to his poetry. And the Spanish Civil War was the revolutionary moment that gave Neruda that radical worldview. Dawes sees Neruda's "principle achi evement at this stage is that he begins to understand class struggle as central to the development of history." 191 The Spanish Civil War became that international Marxist class struggle for Neruda with specific roots in Spain's peasantry in addition to its industrial workers. Fused together as Republicans, these Spaniards provided an organic egalitarianism to Neruda's Marxist portrayal, imbuing the war with a moral aspect. In addition, Neruda's Marxist interpretation became a racist critique of imperialism as the Nationalists were 188 Neruda, Canto General trans. Jack Schmitt (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991), 176. 189 De Costa, 104. 190 Dawes, 14. 191 Ibid., 227.
66 characterized as subhuman colonizers seeking only profit from the Civil War. This anti imperialism served as the bridge for Neruda's Marxist viewpoint to cross from civil conflict Spain to class inequities in Latin America. Ther efore, according to Dawes, "An uneven but steady line can then be traced from the young Neruda affected by anarchist politics in southern Chile, to the poet who defended the Spanish Republic during the civil war, to the Communist who ran for the senate and later the presidency." 192 This line symbolizes Neruda's commitment to a Marxist worldview that he used throughout his career to explain more than just a few things about the historic moments in which this poet, politician and activist lived. 192 Dawes, 16.
67 Chapter Four: "The world looks Spanish unto death": C sar Vallejo Like his Chilean contemporary, the Peruvian poet Csar Vallejo became totally absorbed with the Spanish Civil War, viewing it as the pivotal event of his generation. Despite growing up in Peru and sp ending most of his life in France, Vall ejo placed himself within the inter national community of Leftist intellectuals who saw the Spanish Civil War as the revolutionary moment that would dictate a socialist or fascist future world. Through his poetry, V allejo contributed a Marxist interpretation to analyze this moment in three particularly engaging ways. First, like his contemporaries, Vallejo defined the war as the battle for emancipation of the working class; second, while most committed Marxists saw r eligion as an impediment to revolution, Vallejo used his personal understanding of Catholicism to endow the Spanish Civil War with religious significance by claiming that the Republicans were waging a war of Christian liberation; finally, although he died in Paris shortly before the end of the war, Vallejo added to his Marxist interpretation of the Spanish Civil War a gendered dimension that reveals a powerful connection between womanhood and the Republic. The purpose of this connection is twofold: on the one hand, Vallejo saw the Republic as the created gendered familial links between Spain and the larger Spanish speaking world, as Vallejo recognized the international implications of losing "Mother Spain" to the hyper masculine forces of fascism. D uring his youth in Peru at the dawn of the twentieth century, Vallejo was attracted to a bohemian intellectual counterculture that, in response to societal
68 marginalization, embraced radical Marxist politics and collective artistic action, two elements that defined Vallejo's poetry throughout his life. Csar Abraham Vallejo was born in 1892 in Santiago de Chuco, a town set high in the Andes Mountains of northern Peru. Almost from that moment, Vallejo was placed outside society's norms. He was mestizo a m ixed race category of both Spanish and indigenous descent; he was from the outer provinces of Peru, far from the more southern industrial and cultural centers; he was impoverished (frequently by choice); and, after the untimely death of his mother, he saw himself as an orphan. Vallejo projected all these components of his life, along with his deeply religious upbringing, onto his poetry, including his writings about the Spanish Civil War. In 1910, he moved to Trujillo, enrolled in the National University there and concentrated on Spanish Romanticism, graduating five years later. To help pay for his studies, Vallejo took a job as an accountant on a large sugar plantation, the hacienda Roma in 1912. While there, he saw the horrible conditions endured by p ractically enslaved peasants who, although they were paid for their work, immediately poured their earnings down their throats with alcohol bought on credit. These indebted workers became the model for Vallejo's social realist novel El tungsteno about Pe ruvian tungsten miners caught in a similarly vicious cycle of capitalism. As Vallejo biographer and editor Clayton Eshleman has described, "Seeing this hideous process devastated him and lit a fuse [of class consciousness]." 193 Shortly thereafter, in 1916, Vallejo became a member of the Grupo Norte (Group of the North) along with other radical Peruvians, including the founders of APRA, Victor Ral Haya de la Torre and Antenor Orrego. This group of bohemian intellectuals worked to inject its ideas into the larger Peruvian political scene. Vallejo did just that when he moved to Lima and took up with many of 193 Barcia and Eshleman, xxi.
69 Peru's "leading leftists" in cluding Jos Carlos Maritegui who introduced Vallejo to the concepts of class struggle and emancipation of workers from the wage slavery of capitalism. 194 His newfound political and social consciousness, as well as a stint in prison for his alleged involvement in a family feud, combined to drive Vallejo underground to Europe in 1923, where he was able to exercise his opinions in a more diverse environment. From his arrival in France until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Vallejo submerged himself in radical political projects. As Eshleman points out, Vallejo recognized that his lack of direction up to that time was due t o his distance from the social and economic problems of enslaved humanity." 195 Therefore, he sought to connect himself with the enslaved masses through his writing and, despite being forced to move around precisely due to his radical views, Vallejo continue d publishing politically charged works. He tried his hand at political theater, writing a play called Lock Out about a labor struggle in a foundry that was published in France in 1930. Vallejo also took three trips to the Soviet Union that inspired him t o express his admiration for the application of Marxist principles in two books, Russia in 1931: Reflections at the foot of the Kremlin and Russia under the Second Five Year Plan The latter was not published during Vallejo's lifetime, but focused on Jos e p h Stalin's state centralized economic development program. In 1931, Vallejo officially joined the Spanish Communist Party. In short, Vallejo's radical Marxist worldview was founded Peru, developed in Europe and put to the test by the Spanish Civil War. 194 Barcia and Eshleman, xxii. 195 Ibid., xxiv.
70 Spain, Take This Cup from Me was the first poetic work that Vallejo had written since his path breaking book of avant garde poetry entitled Trilce in 1922. The body of Spain, Take This Cup from Me is divided into fifteen numbered poems, some of which hav e original titles. 196 Where possible, titles have been incorporated into the following analyses of poems. Despite a decades long silence, Vallejo's voice is crucial to understanding how international intellectuals engaged the Spanish Civil War and interpre ted its meaning. As literary critic Roland Bleiker has stated, "The poetexplores the political in domains that are located outside what is usually politics proper." 197 For Vallejo, that meant examining the Spanish Civil War through poetry. The Spanish Ci vil War revived Vallejo's poetic voice as he recognized the utility of poetry in portraying this conflict as a war for the emancipation of the working class. To articulate this vision, he highlighted the collective power exercised by Spanish laborers whos e sacrifices defend the Republic. Therefore, his poems are populated not with soldiers or politicians, but with workers as figures of power. In this way, he emphasizes the importance of the proletariat and the collective agency of the worker who fights f or a "worker's Spain" and, by extension, a worker's world. In his first poem of the collection, "Hymn to the Volunteers of the Republic," Vallejo used an abstract tone to personify the battles of the Spanish Civil War as "Passionsof common people." 198 In so doing, he noted the collective power wielded by individuals who never before had access to power, living under repressive political a nd economic regimes. He devoted a 196 Jos Rubia Barcia and Clayton Eshleman reproduced the collection in their National Book Award winning C sar Vallejo: the Complete Posthumous Poetry published in 1978. Although indivi dual poems were printed elsewhere before this collection (including the first editions lost on the Aragon Front during the final months of the Spanish Civil War and in Mexico just after the Republic's defeat), Barcia and Eshleman's translation retains the intended structure and language of Vallejo's original, unfinished manuscripts. 197 Bleiker, 1131. 198 Barcia and Eshleman, 223.
71 substantial amount of his Hymn to describing each archetype the Proletarian, the Libe rator, the Peasant, Agricultural builders who, together, make up the strength of the Republic. Foreshadowing his religious appraisal of the war, Vallejo also imbued the "Worker" archetype with messianic language, as the Worker becomes "our savior and rede emer, forgive us brother, our trespasses!" 199 Literary critic Jose ph Adamson notes the centr ality of such figures as they represent [Vallejo's] visionary hope that ultimately man will abolish the order of nature and establish a New Jerusalem on the face of the earth." 200 Significantly, Vallejo's New Jerusalem is not Heaven, but rather, a Marxist utopia achieved through the emancipation of those entrenched in the class struggle of the Spanish Civil War. Moreover, this liberation is not limited to only the Sp anish workers. Vallejo extended his Marxist vision to include the international coalition of volunteers who gathered to fight fascism in Spain. Continuing with his "Hymn to the Volunteers of the Republic," Vallejo portrayed international volunteers thusly: Italian volunteer, among whose animals of battle an Abyssinian lion is limping! Soviet volunteer, marching at the head of your universal chest! Volunteers from the South, from the North, from the Orient and you, the Westerner, closing the funereal so ng of the dawn! volunteers who fight for life! 201 This section of the second stanza not only explains the variety of volunteers, but also connects their previous experiences elsewhere to their roles in Spain, symbolized by the revolutionary successes of t he Soviet volunteer who proudly (and collectively) marches against fascism, and by the Italian volunteer who fights for the Republic to disassociate 199 Barcia and Eshleman, 227. 200 Adam Sharman ed., The Poetry and Poetics of Csar Vallejo (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 199 7), 162. 201 Barcia and Eshleman, 227.
72 himself from the 1935 36 fascist incursion into Ethiopia. Editor and literary critic Adam Sharman writes, "Vallejo views human beings as powerful creative forces who shape the non human world in a human' direction." 202 These volunteers who fight for the Republic are examples of just that. Vallejo recognized in them the significance and importance of cross cul tural solidarity in the face of socio economic injustice. He also lobbied for greater international involvement as a co founder of the Ibero American Committee for the Defense of the Spanish Republic in 1937, an organization with supporters on both sides of the Atlantic. 203 And, as historian and literary critic James Higgins has emphasized, "[Vallejo's] faith in the possibility of a more authentic kind of socialism was restored by the enthusiasm of the workers and peasants who rushed to defend the Spanish R epublic." 204 Vallejo himself was one of these people, defending the Republic in his own artistic way. In that sense, Spain, Take This Cup from Me places this bohemian Latin American expatriate among the international cadre of intellectuals who saw the Span ish Civil War as the moment of working class emancipation. Vallejo also framed this conflict as a war of Christian liberation a deeply symbolic religious narrative that clashed with the Catholic propaganda espoused by the Nationalists. Historically, Spai n is a deeply religious country and, even during the Spanish Civil War, religion was employed as a justification for both sides. While the Republic tried to codify religious freedom in its new Constitution within the first two weeks of its implementation, bishops, cardinals, priests and their congregations readily denounced en masse the government's idea as a secularization of society. Less than a month later, on May 11, 1931, the Republic's conciliatory image was irreparably 202 Sharman, xxii. 203 Barcia and Eshleman, xxvi. 204 Sharman, 12.
73 tarnished when a number of ch urches were burned, in Madrid and the major cities of Andalusia, and Republican Minister of War Manuel Azaa opted not to dispatch the Civil Guard to put out the blazes. Azaa figuratively fanned the flames with the following response: "All the convents i n Madrid are not worth the life of one Republican." 205 The Catholic Church sponsored rightist press was enraged, taking this incident as proof that the Republic and its so called "reforms" were the works of the Anti Christ. Five years later, the Nationalis ts rekindled this zealous desire for retribution as part of their strategy to gain support among loyal landowners, clergy and peasants. In order to accomplish this, the Nationalists adopted a rhetoric that recalled the centuries long "Reconquest," in wh ich Christian kings reclaimed the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim occupiers known as the Umayyad Caliphate. Although the Muslims established themselves in the eighth century, it took the Christian rulers another 800 years to retake the Peninsula. In 1492, two of the most famous rulers, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, helped form Spain by marriage and "purified" the Peninsula by expelling unconverted Jews and Muslims from their united lands. Nearly 450 years later, the Reconquest was reuse d by the Nationalists to legitimize their military coup and once again "purify" Spain; ironically, for this new Reconquest, they used Moorish troops to invade what they saw as a "Red" Republican Spain. For his part, Vallejo inserted his poetry into this c ompetition for symbolic supremacy. Stemming from his Catholic upbringing in Peru and influenced by his Marxist radicalization in Europe, Vallejo's Spanish Civil War poetry is completely immersed in religious symbolism without the feeling that it is tied do wn to institutionalized Catholic dogma. Both of Vallejo's grandfathers were priests and, also 205 Preston, 46.
74 ironically, both of his grandmothers were Chimu Indians. As Eshleman points out, he was raised in a home environment "saturated in religious devotion[and] the weight and rigidity of the family' based on The Holy Family' and daily reinforced by prayer, was to haunt him for the rest of his life." 206 Nowhere is this more evident than in his poetry. However, it does not mean that Vallejo abandoned his Marxism in f avor of purely Catholic doctrine. Instead, as literary critic Guillermo Alberto Arvalo has noted, the two doctrines work together: "Marxism and religiosity synchronize themselves and serve the poetry." 207 This synchronicity shows a connection between two seemingly dissimilar narrative frameworks. Within his Marxist interpretation, Vallejo's Spanish Civil War poems examine d the war from a deeply spiritual perspective, and show such a strong commitment to the Republic that neither the Nationalists nor their Catholic Church allies could affect the fervor of Vallejo's vision of the Republic as the Marxist and the messianic herald of a new world. Vallejo framed the Marxist perspective of Spain, Take This Cup from Me in religious structures Biblical scenes, hy mns, prayers, funereal marches that effectively use religion's universal message about the brotherhood of humanity to argue for a Christian, anti fascist perspective of the Spanish Civil War. Beginning with the title of the collection, Vallejo specificall y referenced the events of the New Testament in Gethsemane to showcase the self sacrifice of the Republican soldiers in the face of the Judas like Nationalists. According to all four Gospels, Jesus walked in the Garden of Gethsemane with apostles James, J ohn and Peter after the Last Supper. He moved slightly away from them and prayed: "Abba, Fatherall things are possible to the e; take 206 Barcia and Eshleman, xxi. 207 Guillermo Alberto Arvalo, Csar Vallejo: Poesa en la historia (Colombia: Carlos Valencia Editores, 1977), 146. Translation mine.
75 this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what thou wilt." 208 According to biblical historian Raymond Edward Brown, this scene is a "combination of human suffering, divine strengthening, and solitary self giving[which results in] the final resolve to face the betrayer." 209 This particular passage appealed to Vallejo, who saw the Civil War as caused by a betrayal of Spai n by Spanish Nationalists. In contrast, the Republicans are the Christ l ike sufferers who voluntarily ga ve their lives in defense of Spain. As such, he wrote the aforementioned "Hymn to the Volunteers of the Republic," a "Short Prayer for a Loyalist Hero and "Funereal Drumroll for the Ruins of Durango," all of which use religious structures to bestow Vallejo's literary benediction on the Republic and its soldiers. Literary critic Ramn Xirau explains the call and response structure of the last of these poems as a "long and beautiful litany." As Xirau concludes, the repetitive "form and references [of Spain, Take This Cup from Me ] are profoundly religious." 210 By taking the famous line from Gethsemane as both the title of the collection and its last poem, and framing many of his other poems as religious exaltations, Vallejo imbues the Spanish Civil War with a spiritual significance as a war of Christian, as well as working class liberation. The other way that Vallejo inserted spirituality into this symbol ic struggle is by associating the Civil War with the Resurrection of Jesus to articulate what Xirau has termed the "brotherhood" of religiosity. 211 The Resurrection is central to Christian belief because it proves the power of Christ and also gives His foll owers hope for life after death. Vallejo located this power within people in his poem "Mass." In the poem, a 208 Mark 14: 34 36. 209 Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 216. 210 Ramn Xirau, Dos poetas y lo sagrado (Tabasco, Mexico: Editorial Joaqun Mortiz, 1980), 105. 211 Ibid., 104.
76 combatant lies dead on the battlefield and, although people surround him and implore him to live, the dead soldier "kept on dying." 212 It is only when "all the inhabitants of the earth surrounded him" that "the corpse "looked at them sadly, moved; / he sat up slowly, / embraced the first man; started to walk." 213 This resurrection shows the need for collective action if the world, symbolized by the w ar weary corpse, is to rise from the barren battlefields of Spain. As described by Xirau, it points to a "sacredization of humanity, but not exactly divinization." 214 The corpse in "Mass" is revived, not by the Hand of God or any other divine symbol, but b y a congregation of humanity, a sacred unity of people. Therefore, in Adamson's estimation, "The significance of such a miracle in Vallejo's poetry (as it is in the Gospels themselves) is that a world in which human love could return men to life is, for t he visionary imagination, more real than the world we now live in, and it suggests that the power to transcend the objective order of the world lies in human hands alone." 215 Such a miracle appears in Vallejo's "Short Prayer for a Loyalist Hero" as well. Th is poetic prayer also begins with a deceased corpse of a "hero" still "sweating from sadness." While he is not revived, a book of poetry sprouts from his remains. Although Vallejo never noted the title of the book, he c alled its poetry the "moral map tha t had accompanied his heart." 216 And so this image serves a dual purpose. The book is a metaphor for knowledge, a reminder to learn from the horrors of war in order to not repeat them; it also symbolizes the Bible, with its verses acting as life's moral co mpass. In either case, the regenerative power of religion and its universal appeal for humankind 212 Barcia and Eshleman, 261. 213 Ibid 214 Xirau, 106. 215 Sharman, 154. 216 Barcia and Eshleman, 255.
77 as a brotherhood is central, albeit unorthodox, to Vallejo's Marxist portrayal of the Spanish Civil War as a war of both Christian and workers' liberation. In addition to his religious reappraisal of the war, Vallejo inserted a gendered dimension into his Marxist interpretation to prove two interconnected points: first, Spain (and its women) became the international bastion of femininity that was being assa ulted by the hyper masculine forces of fascism. As such, Vallejo described the Spanish Civil War as a war to defend what he called "Mother Spain." Secondly, as a mother figure, Spain nurtured the Marxist future and fostered familial connections with the larger Spanish speaking world of which Vallejo was a part. Therefore, the violation of Mother Spain by the Nationalists risked rupturing those familial links resulting in orphanhood for humanity. Although significant research has yet to be done on repres entations of sexual politics in propaganda of the Spanish Civil War, both sides represented themselves using gendered images and language. The Republicans emphasized the importance of political solidarity and material production, especially for women work ing on the home front, 217 whereas Nationalist propaganda was often couched in Catholic masculine terminology to portray fascism's patriarchal crusade to reconquer Spain. As historian Paul Preston has noted, "[Republican] Red' women were depicted both as w hores and not women,'" because of their usurpation of the traditional masculine r oles of producer and politician, occupations only opened to them by the more progressive Republican government. 218 Instead, taking other European fascist states as models, the Nationalists developed their own fascist cult of the "Caudillo" or male warlord as the supreme masculine leader of 217 John Tisa, ed., The Palette and the Flame: Posters of the Spanish Civil War (New York: International, 1979), x xi. 218 Preston, 207.
78 their military and political mo vement. Like the cult of the F hrer in Nazi Germany and Il Duce in fascist Italy, this Spanish cult of perso nality sprang up around General Francisco Franco as a result of his military success. Moreover, this masculine imagery exuded by Spanish fascism represented the virility of its cause and reinforced "traditional" social roles for men and women. According to historians Jean Grugel and Tim Rees, as early as 1938 Franco's regime paid male heads of households "family allowances" ( subsidio familiar ) to promote procreation, while women were frowned upon in public roles and were instead confined to the domestic s phere. 219 By writing poetry that engendered Spain with the power to shape the future as feminine, Vallejo combated fascism's constrained gender roles and argued in favor of the Republic as a symbol of provider and teacher for future generations. In Vallejo 's appraisal, women's role in life was not simply to produce more male soldiers, but to imbue children with rights and to educate them with socialist values. The second and third stanzas of Spain, Take This Cup from Me" declare this double role. The sec ond stanza explains what Mother Spain has given humanity, and the third details what humankind stands to lose "if she falls." 220 "Here, Spain is the Mother," literary critic ngel Flores has explained about this passage, intertwining the imagery with Vallej o's hallmark religiosity. "[She is] the first person of the human Trinity of Vallejo." 221 In this depiction, Vallejo once again mixed Christology with his feminine portrayal of Spain. Just as Christ carried the burden of the Cross at Calvary, Spain now sho uldered the burden of the future, symbolized by her pregnant bel ly. As a mother, she sacrificed 219 Jean Grugel and Tim Rees, Franco's Spain (New York: Arnold, 2 002), 135. 220 Barcia and Eshleman, 267. 221 ngel Flores, Aproximaciones a Csar Vallejo (New York: L.A. Publishing Company, 1971), 1:350. Translation mine.
79 everything, like Christ, to give humanity the hope of a future. This evokes the key part Spain has to play in giving birth to a better world and, as Vallejo i mplied throughout his poetry, Mother Spain should be saved from fascism. Likewise, Mother Spain has played a significant role in helping humanity progress until the Spanish Civil War. As Vallejo writes, "she gave you height," and later, if she falls, how are you going to stop growing!" and "how you are never going to have more than ten teeth." 222 Parallel to physical growth is intellectual growth, symbolized by the mother teaching her children socialist values and producing good citizens in the process. Spain gives her "children of the world" knowledge and wisdom, represented in the second stanza as "division and addition." 223 This relationship is significant, as Higgins has emphasized, because it portrays Spain as educating humanity in collective and c ommunitarian values." 224 Further more communication stems from the mother teacher persona as Republican Spain becomes the embodiment of society's growth until the fascist assault that started the Spanish Civil War. Thus, a decidedly feminine Spain function s as both provider and teacher and, in Vallejo 's estimation, had the power to direct the future away from fascism and the bravado of the hyper masculine fascists Vallejo also notes that, if Mother Spain is lost, the world will be left an orphan at the mercy of fascism. This theme of orphanhood, which replicates Vallejo's own experience a s an orphan after the untimely death of his mother in 1920 and as an o rphan of Latin America upon leaving Peru in 1923, evokes strong emotions of loss that Vallejo use d in his Marxist portrayal of the war to emphasize the need to defend the motherly Republic. 222 Barcia and Eshleman, 267. 223 Ibid.. 224 Sharman, 13.
80 Spain, Take This Cup from Me depicts the gravity of orphanhood by directly addressing the "children of the world" in the first line of the poem, warning them that Mother Spain could fall and leave them at the mercy of fascism. By employing the sense of loss implicit in orphanage, Vallejo appeals to what literary critic Alain Sicard calls "human behavior in the face of history" to convey the need to defend the Republic as a mother. 225 An orphan by his twenties and living an ocean away from his birthplace, "Vallejo thought to findin Spain, a home able to house his dreams of love and universal justice" 226 according to Sicard, just as the children in the poem are to ld to seek out Mother Spain if the Civil War is lost. Arvalo has explained it this way: "If man, that is to say the futur e man, is left as an orphan of M other Spain, it is necessary [that the children] go and look for her, following the paths of the comb atants," rather than be subjected to fascist rule. 227 By characterizing the Spanish Civil War as a gendered struggle with the risk of humanity's orphanhood, Vallejo not only adopted the Republic's cause as his own, but also highlighted the international nee d to fight for that anti fascist cause. By the time Vallejo penned the poems of Spain, Take This Cup from Me in the final months of his life (he died in April, 1938) the Republic was in dire straits both militarily and politically. However, this fact onl y instilled in him an urgency to proclaim the significance of the Spanish Civi l War. As Higgins has noted, the Republic alluded to in these poems is not so much the historical Republicas [it is] a symbol of the socialist [and, it should be added, spirit ual and ethnic] ideal as Vallejo conceives it." 228 225 Sharman, 59. 226 Ibid., 58. 227 Arvalo, 151 152. Tr anslation mine. 228 Sharman, 12.
81 Like the three preceding authors, Vallejo saw the war as a struggle for the emancipation of the working class. However, he also bent this class conflict in other ways that make his Marxist portrayal unique Vallejo's religiosity and its fundamental appeal to forge a brotherhood of humankind underpin his work and link him with the community of international intellectuals who saw in 1930 s Spain the possibility of collective action. And finally, Vallejo emp hasized a gendered dimension of the war in his Marxist interpretation as he saw the feminine Republic as being invaded by the masculine Nationalists. Because of Spain's important role as a mother figure, Vallejo stressed the need to defend the Republic or else doom humanity to oppressive orphanhood. Although not published in its entirety until decades after Vallejo's death, Spain, Take This Cup from Me gives the Spanish Civil War a profound significance as the site of struggling for the truth. Even when it was embroiled in a vicious civil war, Vallejo's world remained unequivocally "Spanish unto death." 229 229 Barcia and Eshleman, 251.
82 Conclusion : "War," said Ernest Hemingway, "is fought by human beings." 230 What this preeminent American writer neglected to mention despite reporting o n the Spanish Civil War (and many other wars throughout his career) was the reasoning behind why people fight. Langston Hughes, Edwin Rolfe, Pablo Neruda and Csar Vallejo all attempted to answer that question. For them, the Spanish Civil War became more than just a conflict, but rather the historic moment that defined their era. These intellectuals interpreted the conflict using a Marxist framework as the international class struggle for workers' emancipation, with workers from all over the globe bandin g together to achieve that radical goal by fighting fascism in Spain. This was made possible by these intellectual's generalization of both Marxism and the Spanish conflict. These intellectuals developed a broadly Marxist portrayal of the war that emph asized their Popular Front ideals of international pro labor, anti fascist solidarity. Although Hughes, Rolfe, Neruda and Vallejo each formulated their Marxism at different times and from different experiences, the central ideological concepts of exploita tion and subsequent alienation of workers from their labor by those in power became useful tools for these intellectuals to characterize war torn Spain. In this economic view of history, the time had come for the class conscious workers (including intelle ctuals as cultural workers) to form an anti fascist coalition to fight for workers' emancipation from the bourgeoisie. As historian Eric Hobsbawm has argued, the 1930s was the perfect decade to give rise to this international sense of solidarity around a common cause because "the lines of loyalty' tended to run not between but across countries.' Never,' Hobsbawm 230 Ernest Hemingway and Sean Hemingway, ed., Hemingway on War (New York: Scribner, 2003), xix.
83 writes, has there been a period when patriotism, in the sense of automatic loyalty to a citizen's national government, counted for less.'" 231 W hat counted in these intellectuals' portrayals was the Spanish Civil War as the revolutionary Marxist class struggle of proletariat versus bourgeoisie, socialist versus fascist, and good versus evil. Spain presented the opportunity for this international coalition of Leftists to win the class struggle once and for all, instead of letting Spain slide into fascist rule as had Germany, Italy and Ethiopia. "It is safe to say," according to historian Sebaastian Faber, "that most of the non Spaniards who spoke out publicly on the Spanish Civil War even those who went to Spain to see what was going on or to fight on either side indeed knew very little about the country. The actual basis on which most intellectuals chose sides was, in most cases, quite limited." 232 For these intellectuals, Spain became the ideological symbol of the Marxist class struggle (to an extent, the Latin Americans saw the conflict in this way but Neruda and Vallejo established a closer, more personal connection with Spain to be explained be low). As such a symbol, the democratically elected Republic was the international site of resistance to fascism, represented by the reactionary Nationalists who, with the help of the military, the Church and the landowning elite, wanted to stamp out the p olitical, social and economic agency of the working class. Therefore, it was up to these intellectuals to use their Marxist interpretations to broadcast the importance of the war not as a local conflict, but as the international revolutionary class strugg le between the workers of the world and the regressive forces of fascism. 231 Qtd. in Faber, 12 232 Faber, 6.
84 However, due to their political and artistic backgrounds, Hughes, Rolfe, Neruda and Vallejo complicated their Marxist portrayals by bringing different analytical lenses to bear on the Spanish Civil War, and they used the war as a backdrop to comment on political and social issues that reflected their own personal experiences and political goals. In Langston Hughes' speeches and poetry, the Spanish Civil War became a class conflict with a distinctly racial dimension. From the beginning, Hughes was politically radicalized along racial lines as an African American living in a "separate but equal" U.S. society. As a vociferous contributor to the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes worked to li nk the self determination of the African American community to oppressed peoples of color around the world. This led him to passionately support the Ethiopian government against fascist Italy's invasion in 1935. And, when the Spanish Civil War broke out the following year, Hughes went to report on blacks serving on both sides. He found the Nationalists to resemble American slave owners and their racist fascism similar to Jim Crow segregation in the United States. Hughes noted the dismal lot of Moorish s oldiers in Franco's Army of Africa and used that as an example of the enslaved world to come if the Republic did not win. Therefore, Hughes highlighted the important contributions of those African Americans who volunteered to fight against repressive raci al systems on both sides of the Atlantic as soldiers in the International Brigades. In so doing, Hughes reinterpreted the importance of the Spanish Civil War along racial lines that drew direct connections to all the "darker peoples of the earth." 233 Like Hughes, Edwin Rolfe also molded his Marxist portrayal of the Spanish Civil War to incorporate other elements into this class conflict. Rolfe adopted the tenets of 233 Hughes, "Negroes in Spain," 4.
85 Marxism as a member of the U.S. Communist Party during the 1920s and 30s. During this time he subdued his ethnic identity in favor of a proletarian mentality in both his politics and his poetry. In effect, he became a radical cultural laborer working within the proletariat to herald a working class revolution. From this standpoint, he argued t hat the Spanish Civil War was an international struggle for workers' emancipation. However, Rolfe also imbued the conflict with a messianic sense of hope for the resurrection of the working class out of the destruction of the Civil War. As an American vo lunteer himself, Rolfe also emphasized the Americans in the International Brigades as the embodiment of a distinctly American revolutionary tradition. This tradition was carried on by these volunteers despite the U.S. government's official non interventio nist policy regarding Spain. These volunteers not only became the American representatives in the anti fascist coalition, but they brought a revolutionary strength to the international class struggle. The Latin Americans shared in their North American co unterparts' Marxist portrayal of the war as the international class struggle. But Pablo Neruda and Csar Vallejo were also Spanish speaking intellectuals with more personal attachments to Spain, which led them to develop different interpretations of the Ci vil War's significance. Although born in Chile and traveling abroad as a diplomat, Neruda lived in Spain in the years prior to the Civil War. As such, he recognized the roots of this conflict as stemming from class inequities between the landless peasan ts and the ruling institutions namely the military, the Church and the landed aristocracy that characterized Spain's not too distant history. When his physical and intellectual world was torn apart by the war, Neruda poured his anger and his hatred of the fascists into his poetry. As a result, Neruda entered into his Marxist interpretation of the war through
86 personal experience; the Republican workers became his brothers, the international volunteers were his comrades, in contrast to the Nationalists who were seen as inhuman invaders of the maternal Spain. Neruda also inserted a moral agenda into his Marxist interpretation that emphasized the egalitarian working class Republic as the bastion of Spanish virtue beset upon by the immoral Nationalists and the ir reactionary allies. Moreover, the international class struggle adopted an anti imperialist tone in Neruda's poetry where the Nationalists were depicted as ravenous foreign hordes who sullied Spain in search of economic gain. This anti imperialist crit ique would become the basis for Neruda's later poetry that would decry similar class inequities in Latin America. Csar Vallejo echoed Neruda's personal attachment to Spain in his posthumously published poetry, even though by the 1930s Vallejo was an int ernational bohemian intellectual living in France. At the onset of the war, he immediately allied himself with the anti fascist coalition in defense of the Republic, forging a closer connection with Spain than France or his homeland of Peru. Like the thr ee previous authors, Vallejo interpreted the Spanish Civil War through a Marxist lens as a struggle of the working class against the forces of fascism. However, while most orthodox Marxists viewed religion as counterproductive to the working class revolut ion, Vallejo imbued his interpretation of the war with a religious significance, arguing that the Republicans were the soldiers in a Christian war of liberation. By employing Catholic symbolism and religious forms, Vallejo appropriated the spiritual stren gth from the Church backed Nationalists and replaced that strength in the Republicans as a religious brotherhood of anti fascists. Finally, Vallejo added to his class interpretation of the S panish C ivil W ar a gendered dimension that reveals a powerful rhe toric linking family and the Republican
87 cause This allowed Vallejo to characterize the war as a defense of the maternal homeland of Spain while also showing that, if the Nationalists won, women as a class would be subordinated to the hyper masculinity of fascism. Likewise, there is a strong sense of orphanhood and the risks of losing the mother figure (which stems from Vallejo's personal experience) implicit in Vallejo's gendered interpretation of the Spanish Civil War. These intellectuals created thei r interpretations through writing newspaper articles, speeches, histories, memoirs and poetry. While the first four types of communication were important to forming these intellectuals' interpretations, their poetry spoke the loudest. As poets who wrote poetry about politics with specific goal of emphasizing the losing Republic in the history of the Spanish Civil War, these men and their works vehemently rejected the British poet W. H. Auden's quip that "poetry makes nothing happen." 234 They saw poetry as a vehicle to enact political, economic and social change. Hughes used his poems to remind his audience of the racist connection between American slavery and international fascism. Rolfe used poetry to honor and remember the sacrifices of the American vol unteers who represented the revolutionary American tradition by fighting in Spain. Neruda even declared that his poetry, more than any diplomatic or political power he wielded, had succeeded in finding a safe place for Republican refugees in Chile after t he war. 235 And, although Vallejo did not live to see it published, his poetry portrayed the Republicans as on a Christian crusade to liberate their sacred Mother Spain from the fascists. 234 Qtd. in Thurston, 5. 235 Neruda, Memo rias 147.
88 By interpreting the Spanish Civil War through a Marxist lens, each with unique focuses, Hughes, Rolfe, Neruda and Vallejo contributed their perspectives to a wide array of narratives about this historic moment. However, these perspectives were not always accepted by the political establishment or popular with their liter ary critics. As shown in the first chapter, Langston Hughes disavowed his political writings about Spain when he was called to testify about his Communist sympathies before a Congressional board of investigations in the 1950s. Likewise, Edwin Rolfe could find no publisher willing to print his collection of poems or his history about his experiences as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War because his service was seen as Communist subversion during the Red Scare that swept America after World War II. Alrea dy a popular poet in Latin America, Neruda was forced to flee Chile, even though he was a democratically elected senator, due to his radical politics that were influenced by his experiences in the Spanish Civil War. And, Csar Vallejo's poetry was, as bio grapher and editor Clayton Eshleman has noted, furiously guarded by his French widow Georgette Vallejo. 236 Even these authors' most sympathetic critics saw little or no value in poetry written for an expressly political purpose. Up until at least the 1960s literary critic Michael Thurston explains, "a set of institutional assumptions [developed] about poetry as a special kind of discourse, removed from the world of action and consequence and thus prevented from acting, prevented from having consequence." 237 Hughes, Rolfe, Neruda and Vallejo refused to be limited by such political and artistic constraints. "The poet's task," according to literary critic Roland Bleiker, "is to 236 Barcia and Eshleman xxxii. Eshleman remembers, "I had not been in [Georgette Vallejo's] apartment fifteen minutes when she told me that my [English] translations [of Vallejo's work] were full of howlers,' that Vallejo was untranslatable in t he first place, and that neither the first edition not the worksheets were available to be seen" (xxxii). 237 Thurston, 6.
89 help us see familiar things in new ways. By opening up different perspectives on realities, poetry may be able to provide new solutions to old dilemmas." 238 In that sense, despite the Nationalist victory, these four intellectuals succeeded brilliantly in opening up new dialogues about the Spanish Civil War through their literary interp retations. Without the important contributions of international intellectuals like Hughes, Rolfe, Neruda and Vallejo, the Spanish Civil War would have remained a localized conflict with regional ramifications. Instead, these intellectuals gave an interna tional voice to the sacrifices of thousands of Spaniards and foreign volunteers who died fighting fascism in Spain. 238 Bleiker, 1140.
90 Appendix: Dates of authors' involvement in and works published about the Spanish Civil War Langston Hughes : February 1, 1902: James M ercer Langston Hughes is born in Joplin, Missouri. May, 1937: Accepts position as Spanish Civil War correspondent for the Baltimore Afro American and the Cleveland Call and Post newspapers. June 30, 1937: Sets sail from New York bound for Europe onboard the S.S. Aquitania July 17, 1937: Participates in final Parisian session of the Second International Writers Congress for the Defense of Culture where he gives his speech entitled "Too Much of Race" to an audience of international intellectuals. Augu st, 1937: Arrives in Spain via Barcelona and installs himself in the quarters of the Alliance of Antifascist Intellectuals in Madrid. During this time Hughes traveled to battlegrounds both within Madrid and in the surrounding countryside. He eventually w rites 22 newspapers articles and several more poems which are published in the Afro American the Call and Post the Nation and the Volunteer for Liberty December, 1937: Departs Spain through the Pyrenees and arrives in Paris via Tour de Carol. Januar y, 1938: Returns to New York on the S.S. Berengaria 1956: Publishes his memoirs entitled I Wonder as I Wander which includes autobiographical information about Hughes' experiences in Spain. It does not, however, include any references to radical ideolog ical allegiances or political poems about the Spanish Civil War. 1967: Langston Hughes dies due to complications from cancer. Edwin Rolfe : September 7, 1909: Soloman Fishman, pen name Edwin Rolfe, is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. June 5, 1937: Departs New York for Spain via Belgium and France with the permission of the U.S. Communist Party leadership.
91 July, 1937: Undergoes rudimentary military training at the International Brigade headquarters in Albacete, Spain. During this time he also is ass igned to edit the Brigade's English language newspaper, the Volunteer for Liberty In addition to his editorial position Rolfe also takes on responsibilities of American political commissar for Madrid. April, 1938: Rolfe sees action on the Ebro River fr ont as a communications aid attached to the XVth International Brigade (nicknamed, somewhat erroneously, the "Abraham Lincoln Brigade" 239 ). January, 1938: Moves with the International Brigade press corps to Barcelona. February, 1938: Participated in comb at along the Jarama front as a soldier with other American volunteers in the XV Brigade. August, 1938: Becomes front line correspondent for the Volunteer for Liberty September, 1938: Rolfe retreats across the Ebro River with the remaining American volun teers and returns to Barcelona. He also completes the drafts of several poems about his experiences. October, 1938: His wife, Mary, joins him in Barcelona to witness the formal departure ceremony of the International Brigades from Spain. December, 1938: The Rolfes leave Spain for the U.S. via Paris. 1939: Publishes his history of Americans in the Spanish Civil War entitled, The Lincoln Battalion: the Story of the Americans Who Fought in Spain in the International Brigades in association with the Vetera ns of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. November, 1949: Rolfe's poem "Elegia" is printed in Mexico in pamphlet form by Manuel Altolaguirre with a Spanish translation by Jos Rubia Barcia. 1951: A limited edition of 375 copies of First Love and Other Poems is published by the Wish Printing Company of Los Angeles containing all of Rolfe's Spanish poetry. 1954: Edwin Rolfe dies of a heart attack in Los Angeles. Pablo Neruda : July 12, 1904: Neftal Ricardo Reyes Basoalto pen name Pablo Neruda, is born in Pa rral, Chile. 1934 1936: Appointed as Chilean consul general to Spain and held diplomatic posts in both Barcelona and Madrid. 239 Carroll, 94.
92 Summer, 1936: R ecalled from Spain at the outbreak of the Civil War. Summer, 1937: Participates in the Second International Write rs Congress for the Defense of Culture at sessions in Madrid, Valencia and Paris. 1938 1939: R einstated as consul to the Republican government in exile with the specific mission of ensuring safe passage to Chile for Republican refugees. He also writes mo st of his poetry about the Civil War during this time which is first collected and published by the People's Army of the Republic as Spain in the hear t 1947: The Civil War poems are published within his Third Residence book of poetry that spans his work from 1935 1945. 1973: Pablo Neruda dies of cancer. C sar Vallejo : 1892: Csar Abraham Vallejo Mendoza is born in Santiago de Chuco, Peru. 1923: Moves to Paris and embraces a bohemian lifestyle bolstered by radical politics. 1930 32: Lives in Spain on a writer's grant from the Spanish government. Summer, 1937: R epresents Peru as a delegate to the Second International Writers Congress. April 15, 1938: Csar Vallejo dies in Paris of an unknown illness. September 1938: Manuscripts of his Civil War poe try, titled Spain Take This Cup from M e were printed by the People' s Army of the Republic. Not a single copy survived the Nationalist victory at the Aragon front. February 9, 1940: The poems of Spain Take This Cup from M e were once again published tog ether, this time in Mexico by Editorial Sneca. 1978: Jos Rubia Barcia and Clayton Eshleman publish their work entitled Csar Vallejo: the Complete Posthumous Poetry which includes their translations formatted to match, as closely as possible, the origi nal order and style of Vallejo's unfinished manuscripts.
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95 Kelley, Robin D. G. "This Ain't Ethiopia, But It'll Do." Reprinted in African Americans in the Spanish Civil War Danny Duncan Collum, ed. New York : G.K. Hall and Company 1992: 5 57. Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class New York: Free Press, 1994. Lepore, Jill. The Name of War New York: Vintage, 1999. Monguio, Luis. "Nationalism and Social Discontent as Reflected in Spanish American Literature." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 334 (March 1 961): 63 73. Nelson, Cary, ed. The Wound and the Dream: Sixty Years of American Poems about the Spanish Civil War Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002. Nelson, Cary and Jefferson Hendricks. Edwin Rolfe: A Biographical Essay and Guide to the Edwin R olfe Archive at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 1990. eds. Edwin Rolfe: Collected Poems Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993. Neruda, Pablo. Confieso que he vivido: Memorias Transla ted by Hardie St. Martin. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977. Canto General Translated by Jack Schmitt. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991. Residencia en la tierra Translated by Donald D. Walsh. New York: New Directions, 1973. Neruda, Pablo and Jean Franco, ed. Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems London: Penguin, 1975. Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1952. Palmer, David S. Peru: The Authoritarian Tradition New York: Praeger, 1980. Pre ston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2006.
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