André Marty was born in Perpignan, France in 1886. A naval engineer, Marty led a mutiny in an attempt to stop the French Navy intervening against the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Tried and imprisoned, Marty was eventually released in 1923.
Marty immediately joined the Communist Party and eventually became a member of its Central Committee. He was also appointed to the executive of the Comintern and was involved in establishing the International Brigades that took part in the Spanish Civil War.
In Spain he was commander of the volunteers in Albacete and developed a reputation as an officer willing to execute his own men if they showed signs of wavering in their communist faith or in their willingness to fight the enemy. However, he was liked by many men who served under him. Archie Cochrane met him at the beginning of the war: "He was an impressive figure - tall, with a bushy beard and small dark hard eyes. I then made my speech offering the services of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee field hospital unit. He replied briefly in French, thanked me, and embraced me."
Jack Jones also liked Marty: "He was a sharp, imperious-looking man, and looked capable of performing all the actions Hemingway and others have written about. Yet to me there was a touch of the Tom Mann about him; he appeared to be vigorous, thrusting and bore evidence of long years of struggle. He wanted us to use our influence with the Labour Party to oppose all efforts at mediation. He claimed that talk of mediation was rife and that the British and French Governments could be involved, resulting in a weakening of the Republic's defences."
Marty was in the Soviet Union on the outbreak of the Second World War. He later moved to Algiers where he attempted to direct the activities of the Front National and the Frances-Tireurs Partisans, the military wing on the Communist Party.
During the D-day landings took place Marty attempted to organize a communist revolution. However, under instructions from Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, Maurice Thorez and other leaders refused to cooperate.
After the war Marty was elected to the National Assembly. In 1952 Etienne Fajon, a member of the Communist Party, denounced Marty and Charles Tillon as police spies. In December of that year both men were expelled from the party. Marty remained a deputy until 1955, when he retired to a village near Toulouse.
André Marty died of lung cancer on 23 November 1956.
One day Lewis Clive and I were called upon to go to meet Andre Marty (the founder of the International Brigade). He was a sharp, imperious-looking man, and looked capable of performing all the actions Hemingway and others have written about. Yet to me there was a touch of the Tom Mann about him; he appeared to be vigorous, thrusting and bore evidence of long years of struggle. He wanted us to use our influence with the Labour Party to oppose all efforts at mediation. He claimed that talk of mediation was rife and that the British and French Governments could be involved, resulting in a weakening of the Republic's defences.
A conference was called by the Chief Political Commissar - Andre Marty, a Frenchman who had been the leader of the Mutiny of the French Black Sea Fleet after the 1914-18 war. He took a liking to me, I assume because I also, to his mind, had led a Naval mutiny.
The conference had one unfortunate incident. The amount of interpretation was necessarily tiring, and towards the end Frank Ryan started complaining in regard to the political treatment of the Irish section. Andre Marty called him to order. Frank at all times was hard of hearing, and in spite of the shouting and bawling he went solidly on with his speech. Marty lost his temper and literally screamed for him to sit down. This produced no result at all. Frank continued in better spirit than before, with the lusty help of some of the Irish, American, Canadian and British delegations. Then four guards entered the hall and proceeded to arrest him. This caused an uproar, and that night "deputations," armed to the teeth, appeared demanding his release.
The Madrid government and general staff have shown a startling incapacity for the elementary organization of defense. So far they have not achieved agreement between the parties. So far they have not created an appropriate relationship for the government and War Ministry to take control. Caballero, having arrived at the need to establish the institution of political commissars, so far has not been able to realize this, because of the extraordinary bureaucratic sluggishness of the syndicalists, whom he greatly criticizes and yet without whom he considers it impossible to undertake anything. The general staff is steeped in the traditions of the old army and does not believe in the possibility of building an army without experienced, barracks-trained old cadres. Meanwhile, the capable military leaders who have been fighting at the front for two months in various detachments, and who might have been the basis for the development of significant military units, have been detailed all over the place. Up to four thousand officers, three-fourths of the current corps, are retained in Madrid and are completely idle. In Madrid up to ten thousand officers are in prison under the supervision of several thousand armed men. In Madrid no serious purge of suspect elements is in evidence. No political work and no preparation of the population for the difficulty of a possible siege or assault is noticeable. There are no fewer than fifty thousand armed men in Madrid, but they are not trained, and there are no measures being taken to disarm unreliable units. There are no staffs for fortified areas. They have put together a good plan for the defense of Madrid, but almost nothing has been done to put this plan into practice. Several days ago they began fortification work around the city. Up to fifteen thousand men are now occupied with that, mostly members of unions. There has been no mobilization of the population for that work. Even the basics are extraordinarily poorly taken care of, so the airport near the city is almost without any protection. Intelligence is completely unorganized. There is no communication with the population behind the enemy's rear lines. Meanwhile, White spies in the city are extraordinarily strong. Not long ago, a small shell factory was blown up by the Whites; an aerodrome with nine planes was destroyed because the aerodrome was lit up the entire night; a train carrying 350 motor-cycles was destroyed by enemy bombs.
Caballero attentively listens to our advice, after a while agrees to all our suggestions, but when putting them into action meets an exceptional amount of difficulty. I think that the main difficulty is Caballero's basic demand, now in place, to carry out all measures on a broad democratic basis through syndicalist organizations. Sufficient weapons, in particular machine guns, are now flowing to the city to raise the morale of the populace somewhat. Masses of peasants and workers are thronging to the city - volunteers. They end up for the most part in the Fifth Regiment, where they go through a very short training course, as they receive their weapons only about two days before going to the front.
In the period from 18th July to 1st September, the members of the Communist party were absorbed with the armed struggle. Thus, all of the work of the party was reduced to military action, but largely in an individual sense, rather than from the standpoint of political leadership of the struggle. At best, the party committees discussed urgent questions (the collection of weapons and explosives, supplies, questions of housing, and so on) but without setting forth perspectives for the future or still less following a general plan.
Beginning on 18th July, many leaders headed the struggle and remained at this work later, during the formation of the columns. For example. Cordon is the assistant commander of the Estremadura column; Uribe, the deputy for Valencia has the same position in the Teruda column; and Romero is in the column that is at Malaga; del Barrio is in the column at Saragossa. But it must be said that only a very few of the leaders have the requisite military abilities (I do not mean personal bravery). Thus, of the four just mentioned, Cordon is a brilliant commander, del Barrio is quite good, and the rest are worthless from a military point of view.
The political activity of the party has been reduced to the work of the leadership (editorship of the newspapers, several cells, demarches to the ministries). Party agitation, not counting what is carried out in the press, has come to naught. Internal party life has been reduced to the discussion of important, but essentially practical and secondary, questions.
Meanwhile, recruiting has moved and continues to move at a very rapid pace. The influx of new members into the party is huge. For the first time intellectuals and even officers are being drawn into the party. Already the most active elements from the middle cadres began in July to set up militia units which subsequently were transformed into the Fifth Regiment. The general staff of the Fifth Regiment, consisting of workers or officers who are Communists or sympathizers - this is the best thing that we have in the entire fighting army.
Our party (the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia - PSUC) is not united. It continues to remain merely the sum of the four component parties from which it was created. From the point of view of the Communist party, despite the fact that the leadership is in our hands, it does not have an ideological backbone. There is significant friction from this. Despite this fact, the party's correct policy vis-a-vis the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie enhances its powerful influence daily. The PSUC is the third party in Catalonia (after Esquerra and the CNT). A majority of the members of the party are members of the UGT, which has significantly increased the number of its members. Unfortunately, the erratic policy of the party, especially on the question of cadres, gave the opportunity to raise Sesé to the head of the UGT- a man who is suspect from every point of view (see the protocols of the Catalan Commission at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern International in September 1935).
The leadership of the Socialist party in Madrid (the Workers' Party of Spain) continues to work in the PSUC, and it often happens that the local groups direct their letters to it instead of writing to the PCE. On the other hand, Caballero is striving to seize the leadership. Fifteen days ago in Madrid he handed three million pesetas to Comorera, the general secretary of the PSUC, for whom we sent to discuss the question of Catalonia, and we heard this information about him.
The party's union policy. Nothing practical has been done. The CNT continues to follow an ever increasing number of UGT declarations, but generally for political reasons. Our groups assemble but do not work on the problems of everyday demands. In general, our activists remain in the UGT (the work is easier). It is my opinion that the struggle for the unification of the unions is becoming a pressing task. I proposed that the unions that are under our influence appeal for unification with two aims: i) unity of the working class to defend the interests of the workers against the employers; 2) unity in production to defeat fascism. Mije in principle accepted this proposal on unification (without pointing out the aims) at a large mass meeting organized by the party in Madrid on 27th September. This proposal elicited very strong applause, but I would have preferred that this had been done as I proposed. It is my opinion that union work requires radical restructuring.
Agrarian policy. In general the policy is correct (see the decision by the Ministry of Agriculture on the question of land), but it has not been popularized in the villages. They do not demonstrate the deep difference between our line and the methods of the anarchists. And in this area a colossal work still must be accomplished.
The train journey to Valencia was uneventful, but it was interesting how the atmosphere changed from one of happy victory to that of a depressing war zone. I think I briefly met Peter Churchill and Lady Hastings (a real charmer) in Valencia before moving on in some haste to Albacete, where I was apparently expected. After being allocated board and lodging I received the news that I could see Marty that evening. I was nervous. He was already well known as an intolerant leader who was prepared to shoot those he did not like. My only hope seemed my flourishing red beard, although I did take care to prepare a short, cautiously worded speech in French. The meeting went off well. Someone introduced me, while I had a look at Marty. He was an impressive figure - tall, with a bushy beard and small dark hard eyes. I then made my speech offering the services of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee field hospital unit. He replied briefly in French, thanked me, and embraced me. We then sat down and had a drink and I was introduced to the chief medical officer of the International Brigade, a Dr Neumann, who was Austrian, and to Dr Dubois of the XIV Brigade, to which it was thought our mobile unit would be attached. We talked in French and German for a time and then, with a broad grin, Marty turned and asked, "Do tell me, what are you, an English gentleman, doing in Spain?" I replied that I was a Scots anti-fascist who had experienced fascism in Germany and Austria and feared its spread. I also made it clear that I was not a member of the Communist party, but that I was a strong supporter of the Popular Front. He laughed, embraced me for a second time, and handed me over to Dr Neumann and Dr Dubois. The latter, a dashing Pole educated in France, although a communist was much more interested in practical than doctrinal matters. The former, a charming, intelligent Viennese doctor, seemed pleased to have the opportunity to tell me, in German, about the difficulties of building up a medical service for the brigades.