Call to Arms: Communist Ephemerao of Madrid During the Spanish Civil War

Communist Ephemera in the Mandeville Special Collections Library

The items in this exhibit have been selected from a group of over 1,200 pieces of ephemera printed by the Partido Comunista de España (Communist Party of Spain or PCE) or groups affiliated with the PCE in Madrid during the years of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). These Communist ephemera are a recent acquisition for the Southworth Spanish Civil War Collection at the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego. These ephemera, along with propaganda posters, news photographs, and children's drawings, continue to expand the diversity of the holdings in the Southworth Collection that address the multiplicity of ways the Spanish Civil War was represented and interpreted by its contemporaries.

The majority of the ephemera are handbills - small one-sheet printed items intended for distribution by hand. The collection also includes larger items such as broadsides and even a few posters that were most likely displayed in public places or meeting halls. In terms of content, most of the smaller handbills and the posters have simple one-line messages in support of specific theme such as unity among antifascists or mobilizing individuals to join the rearguards and the vanguards of the war effort. Many of the broadsides include more extensive statements regarding Communist ideology, the plight of the proletariat, and the equal treatment and active involvement of women and youths in the factories and, even, at the frontlines.

The majority of the items bear some indication of the organization that was responsible for its publication. Technically, the Partido Comunista de España (PCE) could be cited as the author group for the majority of the items. However, many of those that indicate the PCE as the author group often include a more specific designation such as specific section of the PCE in Madrid (North, South, East or West) or even the specific célula (cell) that authored and printed the item.

In addition to the PCE, other major author groups include the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (JSU), Socorro Rojo Internacional, Radio Ventas del PCE, and the Comité Provincial de Madrid del PCE. Other author groups include women's groups such as Comisión Organizadora de la Semana de la Mujer (Organization Committee for Women's Week), Secretariado Femenino de la J.S.U. (Women's Secretariat of the J.SU.) and Mujeres Antifascistas (Antifascist Women). There are also several items from a unique author group that does not explicit indicate or claim a connection with the PCE or any of the other major groups listed above. For example, this exhibit includes the only piece from the Grupo de Policia Urbana del Hospital (Group for the Urban Hospital Police) or Los Trabajadores del Parque de Sanidad (Workers from the Public Health Station). The term 'author groups' is used because none of these ephemera indicate a specific individual as the author.

Further Reading

The Spanish Civil War

Graham, Helen. The Spanish Republic at War, 1936-1939. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Holguín, Sandie. Creating Spaniards: Culture and National Identity in Republican Spain. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002, especially, Chapter 6, "Spanish Civil War: Culture on the Battlefield."

Jackson, Gabriel. A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War. New York: The John Day Company, 1974.

Nash, Mary. Defying Male Civilization: Women in the Spanish Civil War. Denver: Arden Press, 1995.

Radcliff, Pamela. From Mobilization to Civil War: the Politics of Polarization in the Spanish City of Gijón, 1900-1937. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Seidman, Michael. Republic of Egos: A Social History of the Spanish Civil War. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002.

Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.


Alted, Alicia. "The Republican and Nationalist Wartime Cultural Apparatus," in: Helen Graham and Jo Labanyi, eds. Spanish Cultural Studies: An Introduction: The Struggle for Modernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Taithe, Bertrand and Tim Thornton. Propaganda: Political Rhetoric and Identity, 1300-2000. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1999.

Ward, Ken. Mass Communications and the Modern World. London: Macmillan, 1989.

Links to Other Exhibits from the Southworth Collection