Networks of Solidarity

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, anarchist groups and their newspapers supported antifascist efforts from the United States. The largest Spanish-language periodical, Cultura Proletaria, along with the CNT-FAI, a confederation of anarcho-syndicalist unions and affinity groups, founded the United Libertarian Organizations (ULO). The ULO’s main activity was the publication of the periodical Spanish Revolution (1936-1938). It underscored the achievements of the workers’ revolution in Spain—until, that is, the CNT-FAI decided to join the Spanish Republican government during the war. As in Spain, the episode was a sore point of controversy among anarchists in the USA, some of whom garrisoned orthodox purity. In contrast, others conceived state cooperation as the lesser evil, acceptable in light of the urgency of the struggle against fascism.

United by a print culture of worker solidarity and political protest, the SHC received the support of various groups. In his role as editor of España Libre, Jesús González Malo contacted the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), IWW, the UAW and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), gaining their support with small donations to sponsor España Libre’s printing costs. Spanish migrants who worked in the maritime industry and were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) collaborated with the SHC, and some joined the confederation. This was the case of one of España Libre’s editors, José Castilla Morales, who organized maritime workers in Cuba before migrating to New York where he edited the IWW’s Solidaridad (1918–1930). Sailors and members of these organizations helped González Malo establish a clandestine correspondence. A postwar tactic that strengthened transnational dialogues on the development of anarcho-syndical­ism within Spanish exile circles and the underground resistance in Spain. Aware that fascism in Spain was undermining the political role of workers, González Malo was determined to contest fascist, elitist, and orthodox approaches that limited workers’ access to the political forefront.

In most cases, the effort to help refugees was a collaboration that in­volved several organizations. For example, the SHC cooperated with the Spanish Refugee Aid (SRA), which helped refugees in France. Both organizations shared their membership lists, and the executive committee members attended the other organization’s meetings. Nancy Macdonald, was the leading figure of the SRA since its founding in 1953 until her retirement in 1983, held an honorary membership in SHC.


The Spanish Refugee Aid (SRA), which raised over $5 million and aided 5,500 cases. Anarchist Nancy Macdonald (1910–1996) was the leading figure of the SRA and closely collaborated with Aldecoa and SHC. SRA and SHC shared their membership lists, executive committee members attended each organizations’ meetings, SRA lawyers helped the SHC refugee deportation cases, and the SHC networks offered assistance to exiles in France. In 1987, Macdonald published her book Homage to the Spanish Exiles: Voices from the Spanish Civil War (1987) based on taped interviews and thus disseminating the voices of the victims of fascism exiled in France.

Networks of Solidarity