The Meaning of Our Struggle
December 3, 1937 — Velodrome d’Hiver, Paris, France
Democrats of France, comrades and friends, it is over a year since I first spoke from this world tribune. At that time every day saw countless hardships, incredible sufferings and frightful privations inflicted on our people, and the blood of the finest sons of Spain flowed in streams in defence of peace, democracy and liberty.
I came here then to recount and explain to the public throughout the world the meaning of our struggle, the significance of the war which had been fomented by the betrayers of our fatherland and which for sixteen months now has been annihilating people, towns and villages of our martyred Spain.
Your protest against the invasion of our territory by German and Italian armies, your demands that aeroplanes and guns be sent to Republican Spain showed then that you understood what danger a victory of the forces of reaction and fascism, which had launched themselves against our country, would entail for France, democratic France, the France of the “rights of man.” . . .
We have come here, as the Spanish comrades who have already spoken have said, to tear down the web of lies and vile calumny that has bene woven around our struggle.
We have come to assure you, in the name of genuine democracy, that Spain is not thinking of an armistice, that Spain does not want a compromise, that Spain is imbued with only one thought and one aspiration — to crush fascism . . .
True, we have lost the provinces of the North. That was a severe blow to us . . .
It was not due to lack of courage on the part of our men that the North fell. No! They fought like lions. The North fell because of the policy of so-called non-intervention. This “non-intervention” deprived our brothers who were defending the North of arms and munitions, while the fascists were receiving troops and munitions from Italy and Germany without let or hindrance.
Despite all this, Republican Spain is staunchly holding her own . . .
In vain do the fascists and reactionaries of all countries try to pervert the meaning of our struggle. They will delude nobody by asserting that they are fighting communism. A few days ago de Brouckère, Chairman of the Second International, rightly warned all democrats against this lie. Fascism is pleading a struggle against communism as an excuse for the war. But with the fascists everything that does not belong to fascism is communism.
Has not Mussolini made this quite clear? This butcher of the Italian workers said in a recent speech that the enemies of fascism “are the liberals, the parliamentary democrats, the Bolsheviks, socialists and communists, and also certain Catholics with whom we settle accounts sooner or later.” Does this leave any room for doubt? The fascist crusade is directed against everything that bears the stamp of humaneness and progress . . .
The reactionary elements in our country would not reconcile themselves to their defeat at the February elections. They were afraid of the strength and might of the People’s Front. They decided to act as your “Cagoulands” are acting in France: they organized assassinations and killed prominent Lefts, formed stores of arms — in a word, they tried by means of innumerable acts of provocation against the working people to terrorize the country. That is how the reactionaries prepared for a coup d’état. . . .
If, dear friends, you compare the activities of the “Cagoulards” with those of the Spanish fascists you will realize that what I say is true.
A few days ago Matin, the French reactionary newspaper, asserted that we, the delegates of the Spanish People’s Front, not satisfied with the rivers of blood shed in Spain, want to open the red floodgates of civil war in France . . . .
As a woman and a mother, and as a Spanish citizen, I declare that this is a vile calumny!
We love peace profoundly. We have come to France as heralds of peace and not as emissaries of war! We want the French people to avoid the sufferings and incredible sacrifices which the Spanish people have had to bear in the struggle against fascism. We want to spare French women the boundless grief of the mothers, wives and sisters of Spin before whose eyes fascist machine guns now down their children, brothers and husbands . . . .
And yet we are alone in this titanic conflict between fascism and democracy . . . .Alone? No, not entirely. For far away lives a people whose example is an inspiration to all who are fighting for a better future, a people in whose midst, as in a protected fortress, all who are persecuted by world reaction find refuge . . . . There is a land, the Land of Socialism — the Soviet Union — which has extended a hand to us across borders, continents and seas and has helped us, openly declaring to the world that our cause is not the cause of Spain alone but the cause of all advanced and progressive mankind!
In the name of all the fighters in our country who are shedding their blood for freedom, we thank this great nation, which, despite the distance that separates us, inspires us and assists us despite all obstacles.
We also feel the active solidarity of the proletariat of all countries and of all who love democracy. Unfortunately, this assistance is not as effective as it might be because the governments of the democratic countries retreat all too easily in [the] face of fascism.
We want France, whom we deeply love, to correctly appraise the real state of affairs: Spain has an army of over half a million men; and if the youth of pre-recruitment age are reckoned this figure will reach one million. If we win the war, this army will serve as a guarantee of freedom, democracy an peace. But if, owing to the cowardice of those in whose hands the fate of democracy lies, the German and Italian fascists continue to dispatch munitions and troops against us, if at the same time our frontiers remain closed, if the naval blockage continues, if, owing to all this, our Republic is destroyed, then, people of France, do not forget that you too will be in immediate danger. Wat good will the Maginot line be then? None whatever! Danger will come then not only from Germany but also from the Pyrenees.
Do not forget that the future of the whole world is at stake.
You must remember the sacrifices borne by the Spanish workers, the anti-fascists of our country, the mothers and wives who are losing children, husbands and fathers in the struggle against fascism . . . .
People of France, help us to win the war, and you will by that act be defending yourselves from your enemies, who are at the same time our enemies.
Let no one have cause to come to you and say what Aiksa said to his son Baodil after the fall of Granada: “Bewail like a woman what you could not defend like a man!
Source: Dolores Ibárruri, Speeches and Articles, 1936-1938 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House), 1938.