My Years as a Prisoner in Fascist Spain
Antonio F. Matheu Alonzo
[Reprinted from Land and Freedom,
OUR dear colleague, Prof. Antonio F. Matheu Alonso, a leader of the
Georgeist Cause in Spain, had been given up as dead by Georgeists on
both sides of the Atlantic. How elated we were, therefore, to receive
a letter from him recently, from Tarragona, in which he explained the
reason for his long silence!
Prof. Matheu Alonso was an instructor of economics and French at the
University of Salamanca in Spain. In both subjects he used Henry
George's works as text-books. In his courses in French, he used a
French translation of Progress and Poverty for the students to
translate into Spanish.
In 1934, the Professor paid a brief visit to the United States in
order to study the American Georgeist movement. A warm friendship was
formed between him and Joseph Dana Miller. "He radiates
friendship and sincerity," Mr. Miller wrote of the man. Prof.
Alonso was profoundly impressed by the Henry George School of Social
Science, which had been founded only two years before by Oscar Geiger.
He resolved to create a similar institution in his native country.
When he returned to Spain, he wrote to Mr. Miller: "I am trying
to found a Henry George School here like that of the late Oscar
Geiger. The director will be Mr. Argente." (Baldomero Argente is
President of the Liga Georgista Espanola.)
Prof. Alonso accepted the position of Spanish correspondent of LAND
AND FREEDOM, and we received regular communications from him. In 1936,
however, when the Spanish Civil War broke out, his communications
became less frequent. The last word we received from him was in
January 1939. He explained that his country was in a very bad economic
condition, and that it was difficult to trade or communicate with the
outside world. However, he expressed hope in the future of the
Georgeist Cause. Shortly afterwards, the Fascists won the struggle and
gained political control of Spain. And then no more communications
from Prof. Alonso. Our letters and magazines were returned by the
In June 1940, resigned to the fact that we could not reach personally
Prof. Alonso, we wrote to Sr. Baldomero Argente in Madrid for
information. Readers will recall Sr. Argente's letter in our
July-August 1940 number. He reported he, too, had no news of Prof.
Alonso and had given him up as lost. Sr. Argente accepted our proposal
to take the position of Spanish correspondent in place of Prof.
And then a few days ago we received an unexpected letter from Prof.
Alonso himself! We present it herewith, translated through the
courtesy of Mr. E. Vadillo Ruiz:
"My Dear Georgeist Friends:
"I am writing in Spanish to facilitate the work of the
Censors. Don Baldomero Argente has informed me of all your worries
about myself, for which I thank you very sincerely.
"Since September 1936 that is, within the Period of the
Revolution I was here at Tarragona, working as professor at the
Jnstituto y Escuela Normal del Magisterio, am also working at my
profession of Law. I used Henry George's books in my classes, both
for comment and translation.
"When General Franco's troops entered Tarragona, accusations
and indictments of the citizens who remained here began. Many had
fled to France, and so escaped.
"I was the victim of the jealousy of a lawyer, who charged me
with accusing my Fascist clients instead of defending them. This
charge was so false that I was able to clear myself by presenting a
certificate which vindicated me completely. This certificate refers
to the first five death sentences which were demanded before the
Special Court of the Guard of Tarragona by the previous Loyalist
Government, and which I opposed. Two of the cases I saved in
Tarragona, and the other three I was also able to save at the Court
in Barcelona. After these cases had been decided, no further death
penalties were imposed, due to the fact that the Special Court used
the decisions on these first cases whenever the death penalty was
demanded. Thus no one else was sentenced to death.
"Though 1 was completely cleared of the charge against myself,
nevertheless there were other charges. The Fascist discovered that I
had been an outstanding republican, and that a political party had
nominated me as candidate for Deputy in 1936. They found that in my
teachings propagated the Georgeist doctrine, which the judge of the
Court qualified as 'anarchistic and anti-patriotic.'
"In my defense, I showed them that the Georgeist doctrine is
not anarchistic, and that our doctrine is approved by the Holy See;
and I related the story of Dr. Edward McGlynn, Pastor of St.
Stephen's in New York. I also pointed out that General Fanjul,
collaborator of General Franco, had been Vice President of the Liga
Georgist Espanola, and that our Secretary, Don Arturo Soria, was
assassinated by the Communists.
"The Tribunal was very much impressed by the case of Dr.
McGlynn, but it took them forty-five days to ascertain whether or
not Georgeism was a revolutionary doctrine. Since I held no high
political position, and since I have never been involved in a crime,
I was not sentenced to death, but was given a life sentence. During
the forty-five days, however, I was in prison among those sentenced
to death. Each night I saw my companions taken out to die, and one
night I thought they were going to take me, too. You see, I was on
the brink of being the first Georgeist martyr!
"After my sentence was confirmed, I was transferred to the
Prison of San Miguel de los Reyes in Valencia, where I remained
completely incommunicado until August 26, when I was liberated. Due
to a reviewing of sentences, mine has been reduced to six years.
"My present status is that of prisoner in my own home, and of
course I. will not be reinstated in the University to continue my
teachings. My immediate problem is to be able to live, since the
authorities have confiscated my home and everything I possessed,
including my clothing, and even my professional diplomas. I am
living now through the kindness of my sister. T hope that the
authorities will at least allow me to work as an attorney. If not, I
will be compelled to request help from you to approach the Spanish
Embassy in Washington to give me a passport to the United States, so
that I might establish myself in your country as Professor of
Spanish and Economic Philosophy. For two years I was lecturer in
Spanish at the University of Liverpool, England.
"Since the middle of 1938, I have not received any word from
you, and I have been out of touch with the movement in America. I
trust that the Henry George School is still growing. We have to
recognize that Oscar Geiger had a great idea, and thanks to him, our
Cause has entered a new period of efficacy. If we had continued with
the old methods, we could never have reached our ends.
"We have to accept the fact that Henry George's words are the
most efficient means for converting people. To us, his pupils, it
remains only to propagate his works and succeed in making the people
read his books directly. To this end, the best means is to offer
students the opportunity to study collectively the works of Henry
George; and this is the method of the School, the great vision of
"I wish to renew my acquaintance with all my Georgeist friends
in America, and request that you supply me with Georgeist
literature. Cordial regards to all the Georgeists, and affectionate
greetings to you, my dear friends."
(We have already communicated with Washington, and hope to assist
Prof. Alonso to come to this country, should the occasion warrant. We
will keep our readers informed of developments, ED.)