Plight of Spain's 30,000 Rebels
Ramos Oliveira, author of a Standard Work on the October Revolution in Spain, pleads for the political prisoners in Spanish jails.
Political prisoners being transferred from a Madrid jail
THREE months after the Spanish Revolution, in which 1,355 persons were killed and 2,951 wounded, the Minister of Justice announced that the number of October revolutionaries in the prisons was between 40,000 and 50,000!
The prison grant was exhausted and the Minister asked for a large credit to deal with the heavy cost of the penal population. It is estimated that there are still 30,000 persons imprisoned as a result of the revolution.
The police still continue to arrest and imprison workers. The slightest suspicion is enough for a workman, if he is a Socialist, to be sent to prison.
Throughout Spain there are considerable numbers of prisoners who have not come up for trial, and who have been kept in prison for months without knowing why they were arrested nor when release will come.
Typical is the example of Largo Caballero, whose participation in the revolutionary movement the judges have been unable to prove, though he is still kept in prison.
Senor Bueno, editor of the Socialist daily of Asturias, has been in the prison at Oviedo since October, 1934.
He was arrested the day before the revolution.
MANY similar cases might be quoted, but these two are enough to show how "justice" is administered in Spain.
Largo Caballero, ex-Minister of Labour and President of the Socialist Party, has now been in a Madrid prison for ten months. Because of his standing he receives special treatment. So do some other political prisoners.
The prison rule in Spain allots the political prisoner a superior treatment to that for ordinary prisoners, but the provision is rarely carried out. Since October those accused of political crimes have been treated much worse than pickpockets and even murderers.
Largo Caballero occupies a cell in the department for special prisoners in Madrid prison. Being an ex-Minister, he is better off than most prisoners.
Yet the cell which he occupies has no window. The door communicates with a narrow passage. At night the President of the Socialist Party has tried to leave the door open to get some air, but he had to close it, otherwise the cell would be filled with rats!
If this is the plight of an ex-Minister, imagine the condition of the 30,000 prisoners without any standing. Those who have already received heavy sentences from the Tribunals live—if it can be called living—in jail.
Life in Spanish jails is horrible. There the congenital criminal is not distinguished from the politician who has attacked the Government; the man whose crime was distributing a pamphlet inciting to rebellion is treated just the same as the murderer and professional thief.
The Secretary of Senor Prieto, Socialist ex-Minister of Finance, has been condemned to twelve years' imprisonment for distributing a circular against the Government. With him in the Burgos penal prison is Don Torribio Echevarria, a Socialist economist, who attended the Economic Conference in London as representative of Spain.
ALL the prisons of the country are overcrowded. Innumerable prisoners sleep on floors of cement or tiles because the Department of Prisons has not enough sleeping mats.
Last winter the lives of the prisoners in most of the prisons were full of horror. Sometimes from five to ten prisoners in a tiny cell, with water dripping from the roof and walls, have had to sleep on the cement, without a scrap of covering.
The cruelty of the authorities is such that they even shot a condemned man, Arguelles, in the yard of Oviedo prison. What an indescribable awakening for hundreds in the prison, some with the prospect of suffering the same fate!
THE first Republican Government, in which there were three Socialists, closed some of the old prisons, such as Chinchilla, considering them unsuitable for human beings. Since October they have been re-opened.
Chinchilla prison is a sinister fortress, terrifying merely to look at. On a mound, like a mediaeval castle, it rises like a nightmare. In that inhuman prison are many Socialists, among them the ex-Member of Parliament, Don Gabriel Moron.
Because of the lack of prisons the Government makes use of ships. Off Santander, Bilbao and Gijon are ships full of workers. Life in these boats is perhaps even worse than in the prisons on land. The prisoners cannot go on deck, and remain in the hold without even a ray of sunlight.
Many prisoners have attempted suicide. Some have been successful, like the brother of a well-known Socialist of Asturias, who, when he was being taken by the civil guard from the prison in Oviedo to Gijon, flung himself into the river as the train was crossing a bridge.
In San Sebastian, Don Guillermo Torrijos, an old Socialist of much authority, inflicted several wounds on himself with a knife.
There are frequent removals from one prison to another, or from the prisons to the penal settlements. These removals are effected by two civil guards armed with rifles. The prisoner is handcuffed. Ex-Members of Parliament and ex-Ministers are treated as if they were dangerous gangsters.
The leader of the Asturian miners, Senor Gonzalez Pena, a Member of Parliament, who was condemned to death and pardoned, has already been transferred several times from one jail to another.
First he was taken to Cartagena, then to Chinchilla, then again to Cartagena, and later to Burgos.
Imagine the drama of Senor Pena's family moving from city to city, accompanying a man handcuffed and surrounded by police.
MORE tragic even than the lot of the prisoners themselves is that of their families. 90,000 persons have lost their bread-winners.
How do the families of these prisoners live? The funds of the political organisations and of the unions are exhausted and cannot even help those in prison; to look after their wives and children is impossible.
I learned in Madrid prison that a Socialist, a prisoner there, had lost one of his children, who had died of hunger.
The mother of Senor de Francisco, General Secretary of the Socialist Party, died while he was in prison. He came out for a few hours to be present at the funeral and then went back to prison.
THIRTY THOUSAND prisoners in the prisons of Spain! The last four condemned to death in Asturias are still hoping to be pardoned through the solidarity of Spaniards and foreigners!
These men are neither lunatics nor extremists, as there has been an attempt to make people believe outside Spain.
In the prisons are citizens of every political tendency. For the Spanish revolution was a national movement, in which every Spaniard who loved liberty took part, and it had the sympathy and the support of the Christian-Socialists, the Conservative-Republicans, the moderate Republicans, and the left-wing Republicans.—Daily Herald, August 27, 1935.
Printed by the Victoria House Printing Co. Ltd. (T.U. all Departments). Tudor Street, London, E.C.4, and published by the Labour Party, Transport House, Smith Square. London, S.W.I
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