My Years as a Prisoner in Fascist Spain

Antonio F. Matheu Alonzo

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, November-December 1940]

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 Military Censor.

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. Alonso.

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 Oscar Geiger.

"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.)