A Freedom article on Agustin Soler's suicide on 11th July, 1945, and the then Labour government's policy of interning anti-fascists.
The cruel and idiotic policy of the British Government is driving the Spanish Anti-fascists interned at Chorley to take refuge in madness and suicide. On 11th July, 1945, Agustin Soler committed suicide at Kirkham Camp. Since then two other Spaniards have gone insane. The most recent tragic case is that of Eustagio Bustos, aged 53 and belonged to the Spanish Libertarian Movement.
On Monday, 4th February, E. Bustos disappeared from the camp. He left his money, his papers and all his other belongings behind. His comrades immediately feared that he had committed suicide; he had been ill for some time and the continued internment had driven him into a state of despair.
Nothing was heard of him for two weeks till he was found on Sunday, 17th February, on the Anglezark Moors in Lancashire, suffering from exposure and burnt feet. The burns were due to the fact that Bustos, obviously in a demented state, had set fire to his slippers in order to keep his feet warm. The authorities believe that he put his feet near the blaze and then lost consciousness and so got badly burnt.
He was taken to Choley hospital suffering from starvation and shock as awell as exposure and burnt feet. Bustos was found by a shephard on a bleak stretch of the moors. He was living among the rocks, semi-conscious. After his feet had been burnt he had lain in agony for several days. He had to be carried a mile by stretcher down the hillside.
His comrades went to see him at the hospital and brought him his guitar, but he was too ill to be allowed visitors.
Thus a new tragic episode is added to the pathetic story of the Spanish anti-fascists interned in England. Like his comrades, Bustos had escaped from Spain after the civil war; he had been interned by the Vichy Government and used as slave labour by the Germans. He was “liberated” by the Americans and handed over to the British authorities who kept him prisoner for over a year. Ten years of sufferings, of privations, of humiliations, of mental agony. Is it surprising that he should have gone insane, that he should have wanted to put an end to his life?
We charge the British Government, we charge Mr. Lawson with the crime of driving men to insanity and death. They cannot plead ignorance. In letters to the Press, in the columns of this paper Spaniards have warned the public and the Government that unless they were released there would be more suicides. Their predictions have come true.
Not only is Eustagio Bustos in danger of death, but the effect on his comrades can only be to add to their despair. One hundred and sixteen of them want to go back to France to join their families. Why can’t all those who wish to go be sent back immediately? There is plenty of transport for business people, for artists, for Rugby players, but men who have fought against fascism are left to rot in an internment camp.
The other 110 men who want to stay in this country must be allowed to do so. The Freedom Defence Committee is making a last effort to obtain that they are not sent back. It is calling a mass meeting at the Holborn Hall on the 26th March at 7 pm, when prominent speakers will express their protest.
We ask you to all you can to make your indignation heard and to redress the wrongs done by the British Government to these men. Mr. Lawson has the blood of Spanish anti-fascists on his hands, but if we do not obtain their freedom we shall share the blame.
This article originally appeared in Freedom on 23rd February, 1946.