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FIR Newsletter: 80 years of “Despedida” – the withdrawal of the International Brigades from Spain

The International Federation of Resistance fighters (FIR), in whose ranks numerous fighters of the International Brigades and their today’s political companions are united, reminds that 80 years ago, at the end of September 1938, the republican government decided the withdrawal of the International Brigades.

On September 28, 1938, in the presence of Dolores Ibárruri, Lluis Companys, Manuel Azaña, Juan Negrín and Vicente Rojo, the International Brigades were farewell in Barcelona on the Avenida de 14 de april. Several hundred thousand inhabitants of Barcelona expressed their solidarity with the withdrawing international volunteers who took part in the parade without weapons but with fists raised and sorted by nationality. Units of the Spanish People’s Army accompanied them. Representatives of the Republic and the International Brigades seated in the distinguished visitors’ gallery and addressed the volunteers with passionate words.
André Marty stressed “We men from 53 countries return as we came: United without a difference of country”. In addition, Luigi Longo underlined “The international fighters remember Spain indelibly and will convey to their peoples this expression of solidarity among democrats of all nationalities, which is necessary as an insurmountable barrier to fascism, which threatens the independence of Spain and all peoples.
The women and children of the foreign volunteers will be proud to be family members of those who fought in Spain for the freedom of the world”.

The Spanish War of 1936-1939 ended with a military defeat for the Republicans and International Brigades. Nevertheless, the Interbrigadists were “winners of all defeats” (Giorgio Moran) because they went down in history and collective international memory as a symbol of sacrifice for their ideals and values. These ideals – freedom, social equality and fraternity between people and peoples – are still not realized today, and therefore the memory of this time and its actors is still of enormous relevance.

When it comes to defending humanist values, the fighters of the International Brigades in the Spanish War of 1936-1939 are exemplary, also for present and future generations. This lesson must be preserved in mind even more at a time when the rise of the extreme right is rapidly escalating, both in European politics and in the rest of the world. Today it is about a national and international dialogue between different political positions, which share the common denominator of anti-fascism. Because anti-fascism is not only a political position. It will always and above all be a human position, formulated the federation “fighters and friends of the Spanish republic” on this 80th anniversary.