Membership card of the Communist Party of Spain, 1938
This membership card belonged to John Dunlop (1915-2006). He was one of the 500 Scotsmen who volunteered to fight during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.
John Dunlop was born in Winnipeg, Canada, but grew up in Edinburgh. Unlike many of the other Scottish volunteers who fought in Spain, he came from a middle-class background. When the Spanish Civil War began in summer 1936, he was studying to be a Chartered Accountant in Glasgow.
Dunlop was interested in politics and a member of the Communist Party. Through the party newspaper, the 'Daily Worker', he read about the war in Spain and decided to volunteer to fight on the Republican side.
He fought in the battles of Jarama and Brunete, where he was badly injured. Later, he fought in Teruel, Belchite and the Ebro. He returned to Scotland in December 1938 and set up his own printing business in Edinburgh.
Scottish involvement in the Spanish Civil War
In 1936, the British government committed to a non-interventionist policy in Spain. Despite this, many men and women volunteered to fight for the Republican cause.
Some 35,000 volunteers from across the world joined the International Brigades, military units which fought on the side of the Spanish Republic against General Franco. More people, proportionately, went from Scotland than from any other country. Why was this?
The 1930s was a time of economic depression in Scotland. Many working people became politically active and took part in strikes and protests against poor pay, rising unemployment, and poverty. The fight against fascism in Spain was seen as part of a wider, global struggle for democracy and equality.
Many Scottish Brigaders were involved in anti-fascist organisations and the Communist Party before going to Spain. The Communist Party was one of the main recruiters of volunteers for the International Brigades. Those who fought against fascism were generally from working-class trades, such as coal mining, printing, and construction.
Suggested discussion points
- During the Spanish Civil War, hundreds of Scots chose to fight in a foreign country for a cause they believed in. Do you think that people would be so willing to volunteer to fight today? Give reasons for your answer. Look for contemporary examples of people putting their lives at risk to fight for a cause that they strongly believe in.
- The British government maintained a non-interventionist policy during the Spanish Civil War which prohibited them from sending troops to fight. The British men and women who joined the International Brigades therefore did so without the support of their own country or government. Discuss whether there are any situations where it is acceptable for citizens to disobey the government and to follow their own personal convictions?
- As well as the Scots who chose to fight in Spain, many more raised money and support for the Republican support. Try to find out more about what people did to provide aid and to raise the profile of the War within Scotland.
Find out more
List of archive material relating to John Dunlop (PDF: 58 KB; 4 pages) held in the National Library of Scotland.
List of Spanish Civil War papers (PDF: 76 KB; 3 pages) held at NLS.
Learn about the Scots who volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War in the following books:
- 'Homage to Caledonia: Scotland and the Spanish Civil War', by Daniel Gray (Luath Press, 2008). [NLS shelfmark: OP8.209.3/8]
- 'Voices from the Spanish Civil War', edited by Ian MacDougall (Polygon, 1986). [NLS shelfmark: HP2.86.3351]
Other Scottish labour history items:
- Socialist Sunday School certificate, around 1900
- Video of Ian MacDougall, Scottish Working People's History Trust
- Video about one-day schools run in 1958-1959
- Female delegates to the STUC, 1911
- Fenwick Weavers' Society foundation charter
- Postcard of John Bird, Fife miner's leader