Lister, People’s Soldier, Raised to Rank of Lieut.-Col. by New Government Decree – Unattributed

March 1, 2020

The Volunteer for Liberty January 13, 1938

Enrique ListerEnrique Lister, commander of the famous division that bears his name, has been promoted from the rank of major to that of lieutenant-colonel. His elevation is the first to take place under the new decree of the Ministry of Defense, which changes the rule that men who were not professional soldiers before the war man not reach higher than major. This rule, enacted by the previous Largo Caballero government, could not attempt to limit the degree of responsibility that able members of the People’s Army might assume. It simply restricted their official status. Thus, it happens that men of the people have risen to the command of brigades and even of divisions without having the title corresponding to their posts.

Certain leaders, tried and tested under the fire of many battles have seen their names become bywords for heroism and skill. Their men will follow them to hell and the people of Spain idolize them. Among them are Valentin Gonzales, a peasant now famous as “El Campesino,” Modesto, a carpenter, Duran a musician and Lister, a stone-cutter. But as they were not professionally trained soldiers, they have remained as majors. That formality, however has never handicapped their efforts.

Lister’s promotion will undoubtedly, he followed by others, for the decree states “It is necessary and just that each soldier of the new Army should carry in his knapsack the baton of a field marshal.” The division commanded by Lister occupied one of the most crucial positions at Teruel. During the fascist counter-offensive the Lister division withstood a series of terrific attacks against their lines without losing an inch. This achievement perhaps accounts for his selection as the first lieutenant-colonel to emerge from the people’s ranks.


All political quarters are applauding this act of recognition of one of the very great commanders of the People’s Army. It is only a proper official reward to a man, a worker, a leader, who in 1932 was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment as a dangerous labor agitator; who in July 1936 was in the crowd that stormed Montana Barracks in Madrid and prevented the treacherous garrison from handing over the city to the fascist generals; who, a few days later, was up in the Guadarrama mountains as a soldier of the unforgettable Fifth Regiment which fought not only the enemy troops but also against chaos and prevailed over both; who eventually became the elected commander-in-chief of the Fifth Regiment, remaining in that difficult post until a short time before the regiment voted itself out of existence as a political entity and gave the original example to other independent militia units of single-minded loyalty to the People’s Front Government alone.


The Government chose Enrique Lister to organize the first brigade of the People’s Army. He took the volunteers, untrained men mostly but not lion-hearted antifascists like himself, and what he did with them is known to two armies —ours, who admire the Listers, and the fascists who fear them. Into the most vital campaigns and through the most vital campaigns and through the most decisive battles —Madrid, Carabanchel, Jarama, Guajajara, Toledo, Valdemoros, Brunete, Belchite and now Teruel—he has led the flower of Spain’s heroic manhood. The whole world knows what they have achieved. And Lister’s name has become a symbol of flaming personal courage, of brilliant leadership, and of profound popular faith.