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Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives - vol 1940 01 (Page 4)

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Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives - vol 1940 01
4
32 Months of the "Friends"
By DAVID McKELVY WHITE
I
Early in the Spring of 1937, Phil Bard
eras forced by illness to leave his post as
first political commissar of the Lincoln
Battalion and to return to America. He
knew at first hand the desires and needs of
the Americans in Spain, then in the midst
of their long vigil in the Jarama lines. He
saw about him the anxiety of families and
friends of these men to show their
admiration and support.
Ignoring his doctor's warning, Phil threw
all his energies into organizing and
building the Friends of the Abraham
Lincoln Brigade. A fine speaker and an
able organizer, he had the assistance of a
devoted and hard working office staff.
Groups of people here and there sprang
into activity, and parties and meetings
testified to the growing support by the
American people of their volunteers and of
the heroic struggle of the Spanish people.
Money began pouring in, far exceeding the
$10,000 quota originally set, and the
shipment of individual packages was soon
overshadowed by large general shipments
of chocolate, tobacco and canned goods,
and later, blankets, socks, sweaters and
other clothing.
During the months up to November
1937, when the doctor could no longer be
ignored and Phil Bard had to leave for
California and rest, the Friends of the
Abraham Lincoln Brigade was built on the
solid basis which made possible
shouldering its growing activities and
increasing responsibilities. For with greater
success came additional tasks. The Friends
of the Lincoln Brigade became the natural
channel of official information concerning
the Americans in Spain. The volume of
inquiries from all over the country
mounted rapidly. Casualty lists began
arriving from the International Brigade
headquarters in Al-
bacete. There was tragic news to be
imparted, there were anxious inquiries to
be relayed, there were countless rumors to
be checked to the best of the slow and poor
facilities of a country fighting desperately
for its independence.
The office staff of the Friends of the
Lincoln Brigade grew steadily to handle
the flood of inquiries, the big demand for
speakers and entertainment for parties and
meetings, and the new problem of
rehabilitation. During the fall of 1937, the
American volunteers began returning in
slowly increasing numbers. It was
necessary to provide medical care and to
try to secure jobs for those who could
work. An additional organization, the
Friends of the Lincoln Brigade
Rehabilitation Fund, was set up. The
Liberty Bell pins made their appearance
and a great membership drive got under
way.
The success of this drive further
consolidated the national organization,
which was strengthened during this period
by a series of national tours. The Flaherty
Brothers, Bob Raven, Fred Keller and
others moved across the country on
exhausting schedules, taking everywhere
possible the message of the International
Brigades, exposing the treachery of non-
intervention, clarifying the Spanish issues,
preaching the great lessons of unity-unity-
unity, pleading for .the lifting of the
embargo on the Spanish people.
In New York activity kept up at break
neck pace. Forty to fifty meetings a week
were organized or assisted by the office of
the Friends of the Lincoln Brigade, and
campaign followed campaign with
collections, circularizations, literature
distribution and tag days. The two dozen
city chapters were coordinated through
representatives gathered in a City As-

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