The monument of shame in Madrid: the republican tribute to one of the greatest murderers of the 20th century


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The civil War He left strange prints in Madrid that moved between the grotesque, the terrifying and the curious. Although far from the violence experienced in the rural world, the capital of Spain, in republican hands for almost the entire war, witnessed extreme bombardments, summary executions and unrelenting resistance against Franco’s troops, which completely changed the physiognomy of the city and even placed foreign leaders, honored as the worst murderers of their century, in the most emblematic monuments of the city.

It was almost impossible to hold down the fanatics on both sides during the conflict, the same ones they no longer saw in the Second Republic a bridge to democracy, but

a mere vehicle to approach what was achieved by the USSR. This was the opinion of the socialist president Largo Caballero, who for years believed “that carrying out socialist work within a bourgeois democracy is impossible; After the Republic, only our regime can come.” During his government, dealings with Joseph Stalin, who offered to sell arms to the republicans when the democratic powers of Europe turned their backs on the Second Republic altogether.

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The USSR, at the Puerta de Alcalá

While the military rebels obtained their international support from the dictatorial regimes of Germany and Italy, the Second Republic he only obtained the support of the USSR and the International Brigades, formed mostly by French citizens. In September 1936, Stalin decided to send war material to the Republic and also ordered the Comintern to organize the sending of enlisted volunteers around the world. The first shipments of weapons arrived at the port of Cartagena in early October 1936, specifically 1,100 planes, 300 tanks and 1,500 cannons, according to data managed by Julian Casanova in ‘Republic and Civil War’ (2007). Military aid continued to arrive in the following years.

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The Republic financed the war with the gold reserves of the Bank of Spain, which it sent almost entirely to the Soviet Union to pay for the weapons purchased. Republican propaganda did not fail to thank the shipment of weapons and the Soviet presence in the capital (minority in terms of soldiers) with a whole series of tributes through the streets of Madrid.

In 1937, the Association of Friends of the Soviet Union made the best-known tribute on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the October Revolution. With the authorization and support of the republican municipal government, the Puerta de Alcalá was adorned with portraits of the Soviet leaders Stalin, Litvínov and Voroshilov and the coat of arms of the Soviet Union was placed over the royal inscription of Carlos III. A banner with the phrase “Long live the USSR” culminated a commemoration that is not of an institutional nature, since this association was not linked to the Government of the Republic or to the Defense Board of Madrid, but it was backed by the authorities.

The weak strength of communism

A large statue of Lenin was, in turn, placed in the roundabout of Bilbao, on the border between Chamberí and Malasaña. The figure measured no less than 12 meters and was held on a prism-shaped structure in which the virtues of the working class were extolled. The monument was placed in the place where the statue of Juan Bravo Murillo and that now occupies the fountain that serves to decorate and order the traffic of the roundabout.

The gestures of gratitude towards the USSR and its prophets did not end here. The Palacio de Fomento (current Ministry of Agriculture) also carried large communist posters and, between 1937 and the fall of Madrid (on April 1, 1939), under the impulse of this association, the current Gran Vía was baptized as Avenida de Rusia y shortly after, as Avenue of the Soviet Union.

Despite what the propaganda organs of one side or the other would say, the reality is that communism never managed to become a mass party before the war, nor after it. In the 1933 elections, the PCE only won one seat, and in 1936 they did not go beyond being the sixth most voted force in a context where all the lefts grew. If communism gained relevance it was, above all, due to Largo Caballero’s political decision to merge the socialist and communist youth in the JSU (where Santiago Carrillo was).

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