The reason for such volunteer support for a war against fascism was born from the economic calamity and the political turmoil of the 1930's (Sills pp). Thus, like many during the Great Depression, the young volunteers had experienced with deprivation and injustice, leading them to join the "burgeoning student, unemployed, union, and cultural movements that were influenced by the Communist Party and other Left organizations" (Sills pp). These groups had exposed the volunteers to a Marxist and internationalist perspective, and with their successes in bringing people to conscious, political action led to a revolutionary spirit (Sills pp).
American radicalism was spurred by the appearance of pro-fascist groups like the Liberty League, and the expansion of fascism abroad (Sills pp). With Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Hitler's rise to power in 1933, and Italy's assault on Ethiopia in 1934, (all accomplished without hindrance from Western governments), the Communist Party responded with the coalition-building strategy of the Popular Front, attracting thousands of inspired citizens into its ranks or into "front" organizations (Sills pp). Then when four right-wing Spanish generals, supported by Italy and Germany, attacked the legally elected government on July 19, 1936, the desire to confront fascism in Spain swept through the progressive communities in Europe and the Americas (Sills pp). Within weeks, German, French, and Italian anti-fascists were fighting in Madrid, and by January 1937, despite a U.S. State Department prohibition against travel to Spain, Americans were crossing the Pyrenees (Sills pp).
Western governments' reaction to the war was ambivalent and duplicitous, and all agreed to a nonintervention pact and the United States embargoed aid to the Spanish Republic, a move that actually undermined the Republic rather than de-escalating the war (Sills pp). Several American corporations such as General Motors and Texaco supplied Franco with trucks and fuel (Sills pp). In fact, the Soviet Union and Mexico were the only governments that sold armaments to the Republic, although most of it was impounded at the French border (Sills pp). However, the Lincoln Brigade was strengthened with help from writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Lillian Hellman who helped fuel the anti-fascist opinion in the U.S. (Sills pp). And throughout the war, a vociferous political and cultural movement in the U.S. rallied by raising money for medical aid and demanding an end to the embargo, with such participants as Albert Einstein, Gene Kelly, Helen Keller, and Dorothy Parker (Sills pp). Yet, the Lincolns and the Republican military who were fighting with inadequate weaponry could not sustain defense against the forces against them and by March 1939, Madrid fell (Sills pp). The Lincoln Brigade lost about 750 men and sustained a casualty rate higher than that suffered by Americans in World War II (Sills pp).
Ernest Hemingway told the story of the Spanish Civil War in his novel, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Hemingway pp). The protagonist, Robert Jordan, is an American supporter of the Republican cause and on a leave of absence in Spain (Hemingway pp). Within some three days, Jordan becomes involved with a band of freedom fighters, one of whom, a woman named Maria, he falls in with (Hemingway pp). He begins to question his own involvement in the war, a war that does not seem possible to win, and questions whether his life is worth the sacrifice for the sake of a political cause (Hemingway pp).
When fascism emerged triumphant in Spain in 1939, many Spanish revolutionaries sought political asylum in the United States, and the largest of these groups rallied around Espana Libre, a broad-based bilingual paper devoted to news of struggles in Spain as well as of the widely scattered exile community (Rosemont pp). Espania Libre was produced in New York by the Confederated Spanish Societies, and continued to appear monthly until the death of Franco in 1975 (Rosemont pp). During the 1950's, most veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, whether Communist or not, were harassed or forced out of their jobs by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI (Sills pp).
Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. Scribner. 1995.
Nelson, Cary. The Spanish Civil War: An Overview. Retrieved August 15, 2005 from http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/scw/overview.htm
Rosemont, Franklin. Spanish Revolution of 1936. Retrieved August 15, 2005 from http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/spain-overview.html
Sills, Sam. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Retrieved August 15, 2005 at…