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Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives - vol 1940 12 (Page 3)

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Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives - vol 1940 12
December, 1940
Living Conditions in Franco Spain

A perusal of reports received from Spain in
the form of letters, some uncensored,
interviews with fugitives and a gleaning of the
fascist press gives an overwhelming picture of
the hunger, misery and exploitation of the

All food is rationed. Most essentials are
lacking. A letter from Madrid reports: "Long
lines of people wait before the soldiers'
barracks to get surplus food from the soldiers'
mess." "Prices of food are exorbitant. Meat,
when available, costs 12 pesatas a kilo (2.2
lbs.) ; bread and chick peas cost 5 pesetas per
kilo; ordinary bad soap 1 and a half pesetas. All
these are hard to get. Fish is scarce, too. Mostly
sardines and boqueron (when there is any) at 3
or 4 pesetas the kilo. Meluza (fish) when
available cost 20 pesetas. Trade as such does
not exist. Everything is profiteering and
speculation. No sugar, no coffee, or milk and
often no bread, which is very bad. Cases of
intoxication from bread have occurred."

Here is a list of announcements made in the
Madrid press for one week advising the people
of available food for rationing:

"Eggs rationed on March 20th in the
Chamberi, Buenavista and Congreso Districts
(of Madrid), on the 21st in Hospital, Inclusa
and Latina Districts, on the 22nd in Palacio,
Universidad, Centro and Hospicio at one egg
per person.

"Potatoes rationed in Chamberi District at
one half kilo per person with ration cards.

"On March 24th there was a distribution of
100 grams of sugar; Mexican chick peas at 150
grams and rice at 200 grams per person. Oil
will be sold on the 25th to the 30th at 1/4 litre
per person. Sale of skins, entrails, bones and
tallow will take place on the 24th, when
potatoes will be rationed also for the Center,
Hospicio and Chamberi Districts at one kilo per

"On the 26th meat at 100 grams per person
(mutton) will be sold."

While the Spanish people go without food,
the produce of the Spanish soil is shipped off to
Germany and Italy in payment of the "war
debts" for Franco's use of German and Italian

There is no work throughout the country. One
worker writes that he
Hunger and Unemployment
Add to the Terror

asked for work as a bus driver. He was told that
first the Franco soldiers have to work and all the
drivers were Italians. In the few textile factories
which are working in Barcelona, 75 per cent of
the workers are Italian with several Germans as

Unemployment is rife. In Barcelona alone the
official figures for unemployed are 50,000. There
are many more. 1,300,000 men are in work
brigades, utilized in the mines and in other work.
They get no wages. About 600,000 are in jail.
Hundreds of thousands have been killed and
executed. But still everybody is unemployed.

A. Randall Elliot in the Foreign Police Reports
for May 15, 1940, reports:

"Several laws have been decreed to carry out
the most important measures, but no
improvement in the conditions of the working
class has been noted . . . . The terrible decrease in
food and other essential materials has made the
standard of living diminish among those who
earn a wage." One can imagine the conditions of
those who earn no wages because they are

An article in the newspaper "Levante" for April
28, 1940, is the most revealing picture of the
situation of the Spanish working class. It is
announced that:

"In order to get skilled workers for Zaragoza
industry and at the same time to increase the
number of prisoners who `redeem themselves by
labor' (euphemism for forced labor battalions) the
General Director of Prisons intends to install a
penitentiary in this capitol . . . in which prisoners
who go out to work daily in the shops and
factories of Zaragoza will spend the nights."

The peasants are no better off. Their land has
been returned to the grandees and rent for the
past years must be paid back to the former
landlords. The villages are being depopulated.
The "Diario Epanol" for January 16, 1940,
reports that:

"In order to reside in Madrid, Barcelona,
Zaragoza, Valencia and especially

in Biscay, an express authorization of the
labor delegation (Fascist trade union) is
required. This is done to prevent the constant
influx of unskilled workers from the agrarian

A fugitive from Galicia reports the

"There is an appalling lack of food, both in
the towns and in the country. There is neither
bread, olive oil, rice, soap or codfish. Not
only do these articles never reach the
villages, but the articles produced locally in
Galicia, such as hog meat, corn and potatoes
are requisitioned.

"The livestock is completely destroyed in
the provinces which, like Lugo and Orense,
are predominantly agricultural or devoted to
stock raising, and that the small farmers feel
no incentive to try to improve their property.
If a wall falls down, they do not rebuild it,
and they neglect irrigation, etc., because of
the reign of terror which reaches every corner
of the land.

"Town workers are literally dying of
hunger. There is terrible unemployment,
which is total in the small villages of Galicia.
There are no commercial transactions in the
customary local fairs.

"The peasants fare no better, as their
miserable crops are requisitioned and they are
ground down with taxes. Besides having to
pay greatly increased taxes, they have to also
pay the tax for Auxilio Social and the recent
one for the reconstruction.' "

The small businessmen fare no better. For
any slight infraction of the, multitudinous
laws they are fined exorbitantly. On March
28, 1940, fines totaling 463,000 pesetas were
imposed on businessmen in Madrid. 100,000
pesetas fine was imposed on April 3, 1940,
on a businessman for "political
responsibility" in Oviedo. Visitors report
back that in all places the sign "For Rent" is
on store windows and the proprietor offers to
rent his store and his mortgaged stock.

Spain is a vast concentration camp and
charnel house where Franco's vaunted
"reconstruction" leads only to greater hunger
and misery for the masses.

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