Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds The Spanish slogan ‘¡No pasaran!’, in English ‘They shall not pass!’, that you could hear being repeated in that song about the Spanish Civil War, has come to symbolise popular resistance against forces of oppression the world over. Originally thought to have been coined in French by Marshal Petain during the siege of Verdun in 1916, it was its use by a 40 year old working-class woman from the impoverished mining region of Asturias in the north of Spain, Dolores Ibarruri, in a speech that she made on the radio from the Ministry of the Interior in Madrid on the 19th of July 1936, that was to turn this phrase into the battle cry of the Spanish Republican cause and set it on the path to its symbolic standing today.
Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds Dolores Ibarruri was known as La Pasionaria, a pseudonym she used in the first article she published in 1918 for a local miners’ newspaper. As she was to write herself in her autobiography from 1962, she was the ‘Grandaughter, daughter, wife and sister of miners’, and was born into a community used to great hardship and suffering. An intelligent woman who, had money permitted, could have trained as a teacher, instead at 17 she went into domestic service and at 20 married a miner. It was a harsh life that saw 4 of her 6 children die through poverty and, through her husband, she became interested in Marxist ideas and by 1921 had become a member of the newly formed Spanish Communist Party.
Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds She was to rise through the ranks over the next 15 years, showing particular skills as a public orator, and enduring separation from her two remaining children and periods of imprisonment for her political views and support of working class people. In February 1936, in what were to be the last democratic elections held in Spain for the next 40 years, Ibarruri was elected a Communist deputy, forming part of the left-wing Popular Front coalition.
Skip to 2 minutes and 25 seconds Spain, however, was a country riven with tensions and hostilities, and those on the right were planning the military uprisings that would eventually come to pass in July.Two days before Dolores’ impassioned speech, on the17th of July, the Spanish African Army had rebelled against the elected Republican government of Spain and the next day General Francisco Franco had flown from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco to take charge, having published a manifesto encouraging all members of the armed forces to rise up against what he described as the forces of anarchism.
Skip to 3 minutes and 3 seconds As uprisings began to occur in the mainland as well, Dolores addressed the people of Spain and asked them to stand up to the Fascist rebels, inspiring them with her powerful rhetoric to ‘Rise as one man! Prepare to defend the Republic, national freedom and the democratic liberties won by the people!’ and fight together under the battle cry of ‘The fascists shall not pass!’, ‘¡No pasaran!’.
Skip to 3 minutes and 30 seconds The Spanish Civil War that was to follow on from these events for the next 3 years was a terrible and bloody conflict that pitted those on the political left that supported the elected government of Spain - known as the Republicans -against those on the political right - known as the Nationalists - who were supported by the military might of the Fascist leaders of Germany and Italy, Hitler and Mussolini. The slogan ‘They shall not pass!’ used by La Pasionaria was taken up by the Republicans across Spain and pictures from the time such as these show us how important it was and how widespread was its use.
Skip to 4 minutes and 8 seconds Dolores herself was tireless in her travels across Spain to inspire men and women to fight against the forces of fascism, both at the front and in huge rallies. In Valencia on the 23rd of August 1936 she addressed 50,000 people, and was described by an Austrian witness Franz Borkenau as, ‘Dressed in simple black, […] she speaks simply, directly, without rhetoric, without caring for theatrical effects’. Speaking of her delivery of a 3 and a half hour report to a plenary meeting of the Spanish Communist Party, the US journalist Vincent Sheean wrote of ‘her extraordinary voice, face, hands, personality, [… her] passionate sincerity.
Skip to 4 minutes and 56 seconds This expressive gift abides in Dolores’ voice throughout, […] with the result that it is impossible to disbelieve anything she says while she is actually saying it’. Tragically, the war against fascism was lost in Spain by the end of March 1939, and so began almost 40 years of dictatorship under Franco. La Pasionaria spent this time in exile in Russia, from where for more than 25 years she led the Spanish Communist Party until her resignation in 1960. Franco’s death in 1975 finally saw the end of dictatorship in Spain and Dolores returned on the 13th of May 1977 to campaign for the Spanish Communist Party ahead of the June elections.
Skip to 5 minutes and 43 seconds She was elected as a deputy for Asturias, and, for a short time had the honour of being the President of the Spanish Parliament, the third highest position in Spain after the King and the Prime Minister. La Pasionaria died on the 12th of November 1989 aged 93, feted as a national hero of Spain. The renowned historian of twentieth-century Spain, Paul Preston, summed up her up as someone who ‘consistently met challenges with courage and was not diminished by defeat. In exile, just as they had done during the Civil War, her speeches and broadcasts helped to keep alive the spirit of resistance to the dictatorship and of the struggle for democracy in Spain’. Her famous phrase ‘¡No pasaran!’
Skip to 6 minutes and 31 seconds has today become a universal slogan of resistance against oppression of all types. As this picture of Na-Dezsh-da To-lo-kon-ni-kova, member of the Russian feminist protest group Pussy Riot shows.
'They shall not pass!' with Dr Sally-Ann Kitts
This video will tell you about the slogan ‘They shall not pass!’.
It’s OK to pause the video or to watch it as many times as you like. The video subtitles do not show the accented characters, unfortunately. To see them you might like to refer to the transcript that is available below in the section ‘downloads’ - click ‘English Transcript pdf’.
(After you watch the video and click the pink circle ‘mark as complete’, move on to the next step and read the article ‘More about the slogan’.)
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