on 20 April 2015
As another reviewer has hinted, Dolores Ibarruri, despite being widely regarded as a revolutionary heroine of the first rank, is revealed in this book as an egotistical, manipulative bigot, a warmongering politician, whose greatest skill appears to have been that of giving rousing speeches designed to 'speed glum heroes up the line to death', as Sassoon once put it, whilst staying out of any real fighting herself. She was almost equally skilled in knowing instinctively how her gender posturings and unflagging commitment to the Communist Party could be fused to create for herself a public image that could be exploited by her masters in Moscow to further their long-term aims internationally, and thus ensure her long-term employability. In her rise to eminence in the Party, both in Spain and abroad, she was willing at all times to align herself with the dominant power blocs of the moment, obeying their orders almost invariably without question, even to the point of voting for assassinations of key figures (often leaders of more 'popular' notions of revolution than her own, such as the POUM in Spain) who stood in the way of the Kremlin's various strategic 'master plans'. As soon as her work of channeling and dampening down the volatile 'insurgent spirit' of the Spanish Civil War to comply with CP global needs was finished, and the 'anti-Fascist' war lost, despite the countless hundreds of thousands of dead young idealists she sent to their predictable doom with her endless talk of 'They shall not pass', and 'defend each inch of ground to the last man', etc., she and her 'tirelessly active' CP comrades slithered quietly aboard an airplane as the 'bigwigs' of Spanish politics in the '20s and '30s made their well-planned escape. Failed Christian, failed wife, failed mother, failed patriot (check these out for yourself), she was nevertheless a hugely successful manipulator of public opinion, especially about herself and her motivations, and a godsend to the Women's Movement. She was a very modern type in fact.
Dolores Ibarruri's (La Pasionaria) biography is one of the most moving and inspiring books I've ever read. Should be read by anyone with the slightest interest in the struggle of working people for a dignified, just and democratic existence. This is a woman that knew hardship, real poverty, prison, abuse and violence yet seems to have retained a dignity, humility and a positive outlook that is to me at least, absolutely inspirational. This book covers so much more than just her political activities for the Republic during the brutal Spanish Civil War - her struggles alongside the Basque miners where she was born and raised, workers and their families who lived and worked in conditions that even for the time (early 1900s) can only be described as inhuman. The attempts to unionise and fight for better conditions, her husband imprisioned for union work, trying to raise a family in hellish conditions, illness, disease but never losing faith in her socialist convictions.
Her life must have been one of the most adventurous of any woman in the 20th century. Eloquent, moving, radical, moving, tender - the life of a simple woman dedicated to the fight against injustice, exploitation, on the side of the peasants and workers who yearned and fought for the freedom to build a life of peace and socialism.
Even at the end, in defeat, this great woman can find words of hope, aspiration and encouragement for the youth of the new generations to carry on the struggle against reaction, hate and violence.
Yes, a story of days gone by, probably never to be seen again in this world of instant communications, instant consumer gratification, celebrity obcession and a return to neo conservative elitist rule, but - what one hell of a story!