“ […] No os olvidaremos, y, cuando el olivo de la paz florezca, entrelazado con los laureles de la victoria de la República española, ¡volved!…
Volved a nuestro lado, que aquí encontraréis patria los que no tenéis patria, amigos, los que tenéis que vivir privados de amistad, y todos, todos, el cariño y el agradecimiento de todo el pueblo español, que hoy y mañana gritará con entusiasmo: ¡Vivan los héroes de las Brigadas Internacionales!”
Dolores Ibárruri, La Pasionaria; Mensaje de despedida a las Brigadas Internacionales 1/11/1938
Dolores Ibárruri was a relevant figure during the Civil War she was elected Vice-President of the Republican Courts in 1937. During this period she became a myth for a part of Spain, being famous for her harangues in favour of the Republican cause. Her motto was “No pasarán!” coined during the defence of Madrid in which she strongly opposed the capitulation of Colonel Casado
Already during the war, she ascended to the second place of influence within the party, after its secretary general, Jose Diaz.
Following the military defeat she was exiled in the Soviet Union, continuing her work as a representative of Spain in the Communist International. When Diaz died in 1942, Pasionaría replaced him as secretary general of the PCE, position of which she would be later displaced by Santiago Carrillo in 1960. She remained, however, in the honorary position of president of the Party until she passed away.
With the advent of the Second Republic in 1931, Ibárruri moved to Madrid. She became the editor of the PCE newspaper Mundo Obrero. She was arrested for the first time in September 1931. Jailed with common offenders, she persuaded them to begin a hunger strike to obtain freedom for political detainees. Following a second arrest in March 1932, she led other inmates in singing “The Internationale” in the visiting room. She encouraged them to turn down poorly paid menial labour in the prison yard. She wrote two articles from jail, one published by PCE periodical Frente Rojo and the other by Mundo Obrero. On March 17, 1932, she was elected to the Central Committee of the PCE at the 4th Congress held in Seville.
In 1933, she founded Mujeres Antifascistas, a women’s organization opposed to Fascism and war and in November she travelled to Moscow as a delegate of the 13th Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI), which weighed the danger posed by Fascism and the threat of war. The sight of the Russian capital thrilled Ibárruri. “To me, who saw it through the eyes of the soul”, she wrote in her autobiography, “it was the most wonderful city on earth. The construction of socialism was being managed from it. In it, were being shaped the earthly dreams of freedom of generations of slaves, outcasts, serfs, proletarians. From it one could take in and perceive the march of humanity toward communism.” She did not return to Spain until the following year.
In 1934 she attended the First Worldwide Meeting of Women against War and Fascism (Rassemblement Mondial des femmes contre la guerre et le fascisme) in Paris.
Toward the end of 1934, Ibárruri and two others spearheaded a risky rescue mission to the mining region of Asturias to bring more than a hundred starving children to Madrid. The parents of these children had been jailed following the failed October Revolution suppressed by General Franco at the behest of the Republican government. She succeeded, but she was detained briefly in the prisons of Sama de Langre and Oviedo. To spare her children further anguish, she sent them to the Soviet Union in the spring of 1935.
In 1935 she secretly crossed the Spanish border and went to the 7th World Congress of the Communist International held July 25-August 21 in Moscow.
In 1936 she was jailed for the fourth time after enduring gross abuse from the arresting officers in Madrid. Upon her release, she hurried to Asturias to campaign for the PCE in the general elections of February 16. In these elections, 323,310 ballots were cast. However, “one ballot, one vote” did not rule. Each voter could choose up to 13 candidates simultaneously. The PCE received 170,497 votes, enough to obtain seat in the Parliament, which was occupied by Dolores Ibárruri. The Popular Front’s election platform included the release of political prisoners and La Pasionaría set out to free the detainees of Oviedo at once.
La Pasionaría returned to Spain after the death of Franco and took part in the transition to democracy, being chosen again as deputy for Asturias in 1977. Even then she remained loyal to the old ideals of pro-Soviet communism, which had hardly any echo in either Spanish society or the PCE. She had to leave her seat soon after her election due to health problems.
On March 6, 1939, she fleed to Oran and Paris, together with Juan Negrín, Rafael Alberti, Enrique Lister among other outstanding members of the Government and the PCE as well as famous intellectuals
She attended the first meeting of the Commission of the Cortes in exile in the French capital.
She also leaded during these years the Radio España Independiente-Estación Pirenaica. It exerted like maximum authority between the members of the PCE exiled also in the same country. Her position in the party’s hierarchy and ideological affinity with the rulers of the USSR allowed her to combat the dissidence of criteria within the Spanish Communist Party in exile
In 1945 he settled in Toulouse with the address of the PCE, moving to Paris the following year and then to the USSR the PCE is outlawed in France.
In 1953 she attended the funeral of Stalin. The following year, Radio España Independiente moved to Bucharest and La Pasionária established its residence there. From 1957 to 1960 her voice, from the Pyrenees, encouraged the Asturian miners and the Spanish workers to strike.
In 1965, celebrating the 70 anniversary, she received the Order of Lenin.
She expressed his agreement with Moscow on the occasion of the various schisms within the international communist movement. However, her old Stalinist convictions did not prevent her from condemning the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
After the death of the Generalissimo Franco, she returned to Spain in 1977 and was again elected deputy for Asturias, and presided over the Old Court of the first democratic Cortes, although her role as a political was already more symbolic than real.
As if it was destiny’s choice, La Pasionária died just three days after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
That great woman has been remembered by poets and writers such as Rafael Alberti, Antonio Machado and Miguel Hernández for the mark she left on her struggle for the socialist ideals of democracy, equality, peace and rights for the oppressed.
Cristina Català is a graduate of the 2015’s edition of the School of Democracy and a political scientist currently pursuing postgraduate studies in International Relations and European Affairs at the European Institute and the University of Kent.