Valencia is a province located in eastern Spain. The city of Valencia had a population of 320,000 in 1931. This made it the third largest city in Spain.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War members of the National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT), the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI), the Worker's Party (POUM), the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), the Socialist Party and the Communist Party (PCE) made sure that the city remained loyal to the Popular Front government.
Diego Martinez Barrio, leader of the Republican Union Party, established an administration that governed five provinces from the city of Valencia. However, the UGT remained the most dominant organization in the city.
In July 1938 the Nationalists began their campaign to capture Valencia. The resistance put up by the International Brigades at Ebro temporarily saved Valencia from capture. On 12th March, 1939, Juan Negrin and his government left the city and it eventually fell on 30th March.
In Valencia our party is working well, and the influence of the UGT is growing. But the CNT has free rein there. The governor takes their side completely. This is what happened when I was there: sixty anarchists with two machine-guns turned up from the front, as their commander had been killed. In Valencia they burned the archives and then wanted to break into the prison to free the criminals. The censor (this is under Lopez, the leader of the CNT) prohibited our newspaper from reporting about any of this outrage, and in the CNT paper there was a note that the "free masses destroyed the law archives as part of the accursed past."
The train to Valencia was crowded out. Every compartment contained four times as many Militiamen, sitting, lying down or standing, as it was meant to hold. A kindly railway official installed us in a first class carriage and locked the door from the outside so that we should not be disturbed. 'Scarcely had the train started when four Anarchist Militiamen in the corridor began to hammer at the glass door of our compartment. We tried to open it, but could not; we were trapped in our cage. The guard who had the key had completely vanished. We were unable to make ourselves understood through the locked door owing to the noise of the train, and the Militiamen thought that it was out of sheer ill-will that we were not opening it. Forrest and I could not help grinning, which further enraged the Militiamen, and the situation became more dramatic from minute to minute. Half the coach collected outside the glass door to gaze at the two obviously Fascist agents. At length the guard came and unlocked the door and explained the situation, and then ensued a perfect orgy of fraternising and eating, and a dreadful hullabaloo of pushing and shouting and singing.
By dawn the train was six hours behind time. It was going so slowly that the Militiamen jumped from the footboards, picked handfuls of oranges from the trees that grew on the edge of the embankment and clambered back again into the carriage amidst general applause. This form of amusement continued until about midday.
Valencia too disported itself in the brilliant January sunshine with one weeping and one smiling eye. There was a shortage of paper; some of the newspapers were cut down to four pages, three full of the Civil War, the fourth of football championships, bullfights, theatre and film notices. Two days before our arrival a decree had been issued ordering the famous Valencia cabarets to close at nine o'clock in the evening "in view of the gravity of the situation". Of course they all continued to keep open until one o'clock in the morning, with one exception, and that one adhered strictly to the letter of the law. The owner was later unmasked as a rebel supporter and his cabaret was closed down.
In Valencia, last Sunday morning, a pretty, bright Sunday morning, five German bombers came over and bombed the quarter down by the port. It is a poor quarter, the place where the men who work on the docks live, and it is, like all poor quarters, congested. After the planes had dropped their bombs, there wasn't much left of the places where so many families had been living. There was an old, old, man who went up to everyone he saw and asked, please had they seen his wife, please would they tell him where his wife was. There were two little girls who saw their father killed in front of them, and were trying to get past the guards, back to the still crumbling, crashing houses to find their mother. There was a great pile of rubble, and on the top of it a broken doll and a dead kitten. It was a good job to get those. They were ruthless enemies to fascism.
It makes you sick to think of it. That these people who pulled themselves up from centuries of oppression and exploitation cannot go on to a decent living, to peace and progress and civilization, without the murder of their children and the blocking of their way because two men - two men - want more power. It is incredible, it is fantastic, it is absolutely beyond all belief except that it is true.
By day Valencia was even more gay than by night. Streets were filled with uniformed men and pretty girls. Automobiles loaded with pleasure-bound militiamen roared through narrow thoroughfares. Street hawkers shouted their wares. Blind musicians, most of whom I recognized as having come from Madrid, now played their accordions, hurdy-gurdies and violins along Valencia's streets.
Stores were jammed. One had to wait for a seat in a cafe. Restaurants were doing a flourishing business. The population of the Levante capital, ordinarily around 400,000, had been swelled to nearly 1,000,000 by the influx of refugees, many of whom were able-bodied Madrid men who had succeeded in escaping the besieged city under one pretext or another.
As in Madrid and Barcelona, the Russian influence was apparent everywhere in Valencia.
Posters announcing Communist organization meetings were plastered on buildings and fences; pictures of Stalin, Lenin and Marx and bronze lapel-pins fashioned in the shape of a hammer and sickle were on sale at every street corner; Marxist literature predominated at the book stalls; the only motion pictures were Russian propaganda films; sound trucks blared forth an unceasing stream of Communistic propaganda in the plazas, and the Red flag vied with the Anarchist Black-and-Red banners on public buildings. As in Madrid and Barcelona, streets had been renamed to conform to Marxist ideals. Directions were often difficult to find because the residents had not yet become accustomed to the new system of nomenclature. Saints' names, by which most streets in Spain are known, and names of former prominent conservative political leaders, were removed. The new names included Via Russia, Paseo de Lenin, Avenida de la Pasionaria (The Passion Flower, Dolores Ibarruri, Asturian Communist leader), Plaza Rojo (Red Square), Avenida Thaelman, Avenida Libertarian and other names associated with the revolutionary theme.
Here in Valencia, as in other parts of Loyalist Spain, the wearing of hats was supposed to be an indication of Fascist sympathies and everyone not having a militiaman's cap went bare-headed. For awhile, I was told, militamen shot at anyone wearing a hat. White shirts and any kind of necktie also were eschewed as being Fascist, which accounts for the generally shabby appearance of the civilians seen on the streets. One had to watch his hands closely.
The closed fist was used by traffic police, where there were traffic police; by the army as its official salute, and by automobile drivers to indicate turns. To extend a palm in a moment of forgetfulness was extremely dangerous. Babies in arms were taught to clench their tiny fists.
The bombers seemed now overhead, moving slowly, heavily, ploughing deep furrows of sound. A single searchlight switched on, then off again quickly, as though trying to cancel itself out. Then the whole silent city woke to an almost hysterical clamour, guns crackling and chattering in all directions, while long arcs of tracer-bullets looped across the sky in a brilliant skein of stars. This frantic outburst of fire lasted only a minute or two, then petered out, its panic exhausted.
The airplanes swung casually over the city, left now to their own intentions. Just a couple of dozen young men, in their rocking dim-lit cabins, and the million below them waiting their chance in the dark. A plane accelerated and went into a dive, followed by the others in a roaring procession. They swooped low and fast, guided perhaps by the late moon on the water, on the rooftops and railway tracks. Then the bombs were released - not from any great height, for the tearing shriek of their fall was short. There followed a series of thumping explosions and blasts of light as parcels of flame straddled the edge of the station. I felt the ground jump at my feet and smelt the reek of burnt dust. A bomb hit the track near the loading sheds, and two trucks sailed sideways against a halo of fire, while torn lines circled around them like ribbons. Further off an old house lit from inside like a turnip lamp, then crumpled and disappeared. A warehouse slowly expanded in the gory bloom of a direct hit, and several other fires were rooted in the distance. But it was over quickly - a little more of the city destroyed, more people burnt or buried, then the bombers turned back out to sea.