Some Concerns with the 53rd Universal Congress of Esperanto by Eduardo Vivancos

Eduardo Vivancos's criticisms of the Universal Esperanto Association (UEA) and its decision to hold its 53rd Universal Congress in Madrid in 1968 and the influence of Francisco Franco, the Fascist dictator of Spain.

Submitted by Reddebrek on March 12, 2021

Originally written in February 1968.

This year the 53rd Universal Congress will be hosted in Madrid. The Honorary President of this congress will be General Franco. When I first read this sickening news I was so shocked I was convinced I was in a nightmare. I would never have thought that the word Esperanto and the name of the Fascist Franco could be associated in any manner. Not enough time has passed for Esperantists to forget who Franco is; that they could forget the crimes for which he is guilty; crimes against liberty; crimes against democracy and crimes against the ideal of Esperanto.

I have not forgotten, I will never forget the terrible years of the Spanish war when Franco, with the help of Hitler and Mussolini rebelled against Spanish democracy. That struggle lasted three years. In the territory occupied by the Fascists the Esperanto movement ceased to exist.; in Zaragoza, in Logroño many Esperanto speakers lost there liberty, some even lost their lives. When Malaga was occupied in February 1937 thousands were shoot to death for being members of labour unions, democratic associations and the local Esperanto club. In 1939 the whole country was occupied by the Fascists and Esperanto was made almost illegal because Esperantists were considered "dangerous people" internationalists, and enemies of the sacred traditions of the fatherland. The Esperantists that escaped persecution did not dare show the Green Star and so the Esperanto movement died. Years have passed and little by little some Esperantists began to create groups in a few cities and then finally revived the Spanish association. I am very happy with the reawakening of the Esperanto movement, and I wish it further prosperity, but I will not for any reason accept that Franco, whose hands are covered in the blood of many of our fellow Esperantists, should be given the honourable position of presiding over an Esperanto Congress. I know that it is customary to invite the heads of state to preside over UEA-Congresses. One can like or dislike the custom, but when the head of state concerned is Franco the custom becomes intolerable. I can even say I find the decision nauseating.

You could pretend that this congress will be a great help to the Spanish Esperanto movement. This is a great error. Franco is a committed enemy to the majority of Spanish people; the name of the Dictator in connection to the congress will create a unfavourable impression and taint the idealism and darken the image of Esperanto. The name of Franco will be a dark spot in Esperanto movement. I know that many Esperantists Spanish and non Spanish disapprove of the organising of this congress given the present circumstances; because Franco is the enemy of all humanist ideals. From the beginning of the Fascist rebellion every Spanish liberal opposed him. I should mention the name of colonel Julio Mangada the president of the Spanish Esperanto-Association in 1936; Mangada was one of the first who stood against the criminal Franco. I should honour the name of the eminent Esperantist Jaume Grau Casas, a loyal member of the UEA, and Language Committee member, author of "Love Poems", "Catalunya Anthology" and "Poem Love and Pain" and many other works. Grau Casas suffered for many years in concentration camps before being killed in Valencia, utterly disappointed almost forgotten by all. During his time in the concentration camps we were together in the same barracks, we always talked in Esperanto and he often described his belief in a future triumphant Esperanto movement in a free Spain, without fascism and without Franco. Could he ever have imagined that a few years later the name of Franco would be announced at an Esperanto Congress?

For what reason does Franco tolerate the Esperanto movement and even accept the title of "protector" of the Congress? To those who really know the political manoeuvrings of the Dictator this isn't a surprise. Until the year 1945 Franco on many occasions publicly declared his disgust with democracy, going so far as to send the "volunteer" Blue Division in Nazi uniform to fight at the side of Hitler's army. In those days he enjoyed flaunting his Fascism. Here are the words of the important Fascist A Goicoecha a close collaborator of Franco, given to the French newspaper L'Echo de Paris: "Our program consists of total state authority. Corporations without freedom". Certainly, we are committed nationalists and passionate enemies of democratic institutions".

But Hitler was defeated. The regime of Franco was isolated and practically condemned. On the 9th of February 1946 the General Assembly of the United Nations met in San Francisco in the United States of America and declared "By its desire, nature, conduct and structure the government of Franco is a Fascist regime copied from that of Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, and was established for the most part thanks to the assistance those countries gave to him" and later the declaration stated: "the fascist regime of Franco is incapable of representing the Spanish population in any way". Thus began Franco's long and constant struggle for legitimacy. The Fascist dictator became a "Democrat". He spoke about religious freedom, freedom of association, press freedom. The Universal Congress will be used by Franco as proof of his "tolerant and democratic nature". Franco will profit from the Congress but the Esperanto Movement will not! In fact the Esperanto movement will be part of a deception used to justify the unscrupulous Fascist. So why is the UEA preparing itself to be part of this deception? Aren't there people in the UEA who are politically conscious enough to not take part in this vicious act against human dignity?

A bitter irony, the year 1968 is the year of Human Rights. The LKK [Local Congressional Committee, Reddebrek] will organise a photography competition whose subject will be quotations from the Declaration of Human Rights. I suggest that participants send in photographs showing demonstrations of Spanish workers and students demanding independent labour unions and student associations; photographs showing how Franco's police savagely attack and arrest the demonstrators; photographs showing how peasants in Andalucía and Extremadura live. To know that human rights do not exist in Spain; to know that every day there are protests by workers, students, intellectuals, even priests; to know that in the prisons there are tortures from the days of the inquisition; that amongst the condemned there are found Esperantists; like Alicia Mur whose crime was to take part in an association not tolerated by the Fascist regime of Franco.

I suggest to those who will take part in this Congress not to just visit the beautiful buildings of Madrid, nor the Valley of the Fallen and the tourist approved luxury spots on the coast. I suggest that they contact the people who suffer and hope that the time when liberty will shine again.

I fear that this article is already too long, however there remains much more to say. I tried to be objective but felt the urge to denounce the crimes of the "protector" of this year's Universal Congress and energetically protest against the decision to organise this congress under the seat of the Fascist Dictator.