IBs Meet for Future

August 31, 2010

For three years, the French and German International Brigade Associations, respectively A.C.E.R. and K.S.F.R., have pushed for the creation of an international umbrella committee whose role would be to link the many national IB associations. The most recent meeting for the future “Coordination Internationale” took place in Paris last May. Delegations, principally from Europe, met for a weekend of debates.

The ambitious program that was discussed is the envy of any IB organization: an internet network of IB sites; a program of meetings for the 2011 75th anniversary of the IB; a calendar of upcoming commemorations; a so-called “observation committee” to warn of renewed fascist activites in Europe; an international catalogue of archives, photos, films and books on the IB; a future international conference on IB history; the creation of a “pedogogical brochure” on the IB; a selection of books for translations; and, finally, an inventory of IB graves in Spain.

For me as a historian, attending these 21st-century debates turned into a golden opportunity for a glimpse into what it must have been like in Albacete, just prior to the epic battle of Madrid, in the early days of the IB. Many were the opinions, languages and viewpoints. Despite the cacophony of voices, the amateur interpreters and the limited linguistic abilities of the international delegations, it soon became apparent that two opinions diverged. The French and German delegations, the organizers of the event, supported a Paris-Berlin axis to the organization, whereas many other IB groups with closer geographical and emotional ties to Spain advocated a Spanish presidency and an office for any future international brigade coordinating committee. In essence, this is exactly what the Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales has strived unsuccessfuly to accomplish ever since the 1996 Homenaje.

Nevertheless, after an afternoon of debates, a plenary meeting of A.C.E.R. and a day of visits in Paris, the weekend was declared a great success. The French and German positions carried the day. The Coordination Internationale will have a revolving presidency, no permanent headquarters, and will manage with the present budgets of its standing members.

Robert S. Coale, an ALBA Board member, teaches Spanish literature at the Université Paris 8.