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Friday, 18 September 2009

Spanish Civil War

I am currently updating my Spanish Civil War page:

This includes a page on Marty Hourihan. He was made the new commander of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion by a committee of the soldiers. In Comrades and Commissars: The Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War (2007) Cecil D. Eby claims that "Party hard-wires distrusted the new Lincoln commander, a political maverick so defiant of the Party line that at times he seemed not even to know what it was."

Jason Gurney, the brigade observer, was impressed by his new commanding officer. "Marty, in his role of Commander, inevitably lived a rather lonely life; he had to maintain absolute neutrality without any close friendships or favourites, but he was by nature a gregarious man and the friendship which we had formed for one another was very strong. He had a terrific sense of humour and, although he had little formal education, a very good mind and a superb sense of human sympathy. He never bore grudges or carried on feuds, he could be tough as hell in public, but there was much more of sorrow for human weakness than condemnation of wickedness in his outlook."

Marty Hourihan became completely disillusioned by the actions of the Political Commissioners in the Spanish Civil War. His close friend, Jason Gurney, became convinced that Steve Nelson was "responsible for the mysterious disappearances of a number of people from among our ranks and for the secret trials, for real or imagined offences, which caused so much fear and suspicion within the Battalion." Gurney later recalled: " The nobility of the cause for which I had come to Spain was clearly a fiction, and now the sudden and absolute conviction that life was an experience with no past and no future, merely ending in annihilation."

Hourihan shared Gurney's feelings about the behaviour of the Political Commissioners who were taking their orders direct from the Soviet Union. On 5th April 1937 Vladimir Copic told Hourihan to leave their trenches to attack the Nationalist forces at Jarma. Hourihan refused and Copic replied: "You're cowards! You don't perform your duties! You're not aggressive enough!" Hourihan later told Steve Nelson: "I'm not going to give any orders to the Battalion to climb out of the trench and get themselves slaughtered until there is some real support." Gurney commented that Nelson and Copic accepted this because he knew "the entire Battalion was sufficiently angry to mutiny, as it had done before."

On 6th July 1937, the Popular Front government launched a major offensive in an attempt to relieve the threat to Madrid. The main battle took place at Brunete. In the subsequent attack on the town Hourihan was hit in the leg by a sniper that resulted in his thigh bone being broken.

The medical board at Albacete ordered Hourihan to be repatriated as he was considered to be unfit for further military service. When he arrived back in the United States he resigned from the American Communist Party. As a result he was denounced by the Daily Worker as "an enemy of the working-class". Hourihan was also criticised for not having lost too many men during the attack on Nationalist forces on 27th February 1937. As the historian Cecil D. Eby pointed out, this was "proof for them that he had been more interested in saving lives (including his own) than in exterminating Fascists."

After the Second World War Hourihan obtained a teaching post in Greenlaw County. He also attended Huntingdon College, Alabama, graduating in 1959.

In 1967 Marty Hourihan was manager of a country club in Terra Haute, Indiana. The historian, Cecil D. Eby, who managed to find him later reported that: " Hourihan... made me promise never to divulge his whereabouts because he feared as a former Communist he would lose his job. To my surprise, he was not afraid of being denounced by the FBI but by the CP or VALB, as punishment for straying from the faith".

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