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A H A V E - N O T ' S WAR The Spanish Civil War, 1937-38 rnest Hemingway's ForWhom the Bell Tolls is the most famous of many books written about the Spanish civil war of the 1930s. The novelist described the feeling shared by American volunteers in that faraway and long-ago struggle as "a feeling of consecration to a duty toward all the J O O OO O J oppressed of the world," an almost "religious experience "of "absolute brotherhood ." And "the best thing was that there was something you could do about this feeling. . . . You could fight." O O Clarence Forester of north Minneapolis was one of the Americans who had that feeling. During a violent truck drivers' strike in Minneapolis in 1934, he had learned, he says, "that sometimes to get the rights you should have, they're not just given to you, you have to fight for them." In November 1996, Forester celebrated his eighty-first birthday in Spain. But he felt, he says, "like I was twenty-three again." In 1937 and 1938, Forester had passed his twenty-second and twenty-third birthdays in the warm and fervent land of bullfights and flamenco dances. O Forester went back as one of 380 aging veterans who served in the Spanishcivil war as part of "international brigades." They were guests of the Spanish government for an emotional weeklong tribute to their unsuccessful struggle six decades O OO earlier to defend the Spanish Republic against a military uprising. The old soldiers returned, many aboard wheelchairs or armed with canes, to be cheered and hugged by crowds of Spaniards who mostly knew of the veterans' deeds only through history books and stories told. Nobody has ever outcheered or outhugged the Spanish. Mingling with impassioned 1996 crowds, Forester thought back to the throngs that had saluted the ' O O international brigades as they left Spain in November 1938 at a moment when the war was going badly for the Republic and final defeat was near. E 95 A H A V E - N O T ' S W A R "Somewhere," Forester says he kept thinking, "I'm going to get hugged by somebody who hugged me in 1938." Small children of the war years, he figures, would have been in their mid-sixties by the time he returned. Forester has lived most of his life between his two pilgrimages to Spain: fighting for America in World War II, working a career as a machinist, and enjoying a happy forty-seven-year marriage. But the impetuous, idealistic crusade in Spain, Forester agrees, has remained the defining event of his life. o Radicalized Forester had alwavs been what he calls a "have-not." He was born in 1915 in the j little town of Alfred, North Dakota, the ninth of ten children. The family was poor and got poorer when Forester's father died. At fifteen, having had scarcelyany schooling, Forester snuck aboard a freight train and headed for Minneapolis. Soon he moved to Superior, Wisconsin, where he lived for several years with two older half-brothers.They were "well-established radicals," Forester says,"and I did a lot of reading there." By the time he returned to Minneapolis, Forester was "radicalized," he says."I would have to saythat I was an extreme leftist," he adds. He also recalls that a person could get labeled a "commie bastard" during the 1930s for advocatingsuch programs as Social Security and unemployment insurance , which are now "sacred cows toeverybody." The early 1930s were bleak depression years. Forester was then part of a ragtag army of unemployed men, frightened and angry, often homeless, often hungry. He frequented the Gateway skid-row district of downtown Minneapolis. At the Gateway, Forester says, "Youcould always find a rabble-rouser making a spiel: socialists, communists, unionists. And the Salvation Army. The Army had a band there, and there would be some preaching. And then you could follow the band to their headquarters and get a half sandwich and a bowl of soup." The world was ablaze with political passions. Everywhere, economic desperation fanned the flames of bitter class and ethnic conflicts. Utopian dreams billowed from a bonfire of harsh realities. In America, pressure for expanded rights and political power for workers and the poor led to sometimes violent battles over unionization and to the controversial , government-enlarging New Deal programs of Franklin Roosevelt. In Minnesota , the left-leaningFarmer-Labor Party was in power through much of the decade...


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