Statue of La Pasionaria
Repository: Glasgow City Council, Libraries Information and Learning
Creator: Dooley, Arthur
Contributor: International Brigades Association of Glasgow
Fond or Collection
Repository and Location
Glasgow City Council, Libraries Information and Learning
Date Created: 1980
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Glasgow
This statue of Dolores Ibárruri, known as “La Pasionaria”, was unveiled on the banks of the Clyde River, Glasgow, on 23 February 1980. The International Brigades Association of the city, with funding from trade unions and the Labour movement, commissioned sculptor Arthur Dooley to design a memorial to the British volunteers who fought with the Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. There are two plaques beneath the enormous figure of the heroine of the Spanish Community Party, who stands with arms and eyes raised to the sky. The first reads, “Better to die on your feet than live forever on your hands and knees – Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria)”. The second records the tribute of the City of Glasgow and the British Labour Movement ‘to the courage of those men and women who went to Spain to fight Fascism, 1936-39.” It goes on to note that 2,100 volunteers went from Britain, and 534 were killed, of whom 65 were Glaswegians. Nevertheless, the erection of the statue in the late 1970s was not without local political opposition, notably from Conservative party councillors, and reflects political fractures in the UK at the time. Contemporary political intersections are also evident in the staging of the play, Pasionaria, at the Playhouse Theatre, Newcastle Upon Tyne, in 1985. The work connected Ibárruri’s early years living in a mining community in the Basque Country with the UK miners’ strike of 1984-85.
La Pasionaria was a communist activist known for her passionate oratory and most especially her defiant call to arms, “¡No pasarán!” (“They shall not pass!”), proclaimed in a radio broadcast during the defence of Madrid in late 1936. With the declaration of the Spanish Republic in 1931, she had moved to Madrid and become editor of the Spanish Community Party newspaper, Mundo Obrero. In 1933 founded the Asociación de Mujeres Antifacistas (Association of Antifascist Women). La Pasionaria was lionized by the Soviet Union, where she ultimately went into exile following the Republican defeat, as the embodiment of the new revolutionary woman. However, she drew paradoxically on both revolutionary ideals and – despite the fact that she had abandoned Catholicism – a religious tradition of maternal self-sacrifice in building her public persona. Her slogan, quoted on the Glasgow statue, that it is better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knees, encapsulates this commitment to the revolutionary struggle and exemplifies the manner in which Ibárruri gave expression to a language of resistance that gained international resonance. It was first articulated in a rousing speech in Paris in September 1936 and gained her international attention. After the war, she would present herself as mother to the Spanish Republican Exile community in the Soviet Union, notably in her autobiography, Memorias de Pasionaria, 1939-1977, which dealt with her life in exile and the early years of the Spanish transition to democracy. However, she was exalted world-wide as a symbol of working-class militancy, and the epithet “pasionaria” has at times been extended to other figures seen as following in her mould, including the South African anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Mandela and the Romanian communist leader Ana Pauker. Ibárruri died on 12 November 1989.