Jules Paivio, last surviving Canadian veteran of the Spanish Civil War, dies
Last week, an important but often overlooked era in Canada’s history came to a close with the death of Jules Paivio, the last surviving Canadian veteran of the Spanish Civil War.
A member of the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, Paivio travelled with volunteers from all over the world to Spain in 1937 in an effort to help a beleaguered republic gripped in a brutal civil war.
Regarded by many as the opening salvo of the Second World War, the Spanish Civil War saw the fascist forces of Francisco Franco—aided by dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini—rise up against the democratically elected Popular Front government of Spain.
A broad coalition of left-wing interests, the Popular Front brought together socialists, trade unionists, communists, and anarchists in a brittle political alliance backed by theSoviet Union.
With foreign volunteer troops raised by the Moscow-based Comintern network and organized into the International Brigades, more than 30,000 international volunteers were recruited. In all, more than 1,500 Canadians made their way to fight in Spain.
One such volunteer was the then 19-year-old Paivio of Sudbury, Ontario. An ardent anti-fascist, Paivio shipped out to Le Havre, France and made his way over the snowy Pyrenees to Spain on foot, where he was eventually assigned to the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.
In the spring of 1938, Paivio was part of what later became known as "The Great Retreats" after the Republican army lost their stronghold in Aragon with the fall of Teruel. Under withering and continuous assault, the International Brigades, as well as Spanish troops, fell back to the Mediterranean to regroup in Valencia and Catalonia.
On March 31, 1938, Paivio and members of his patrol were captured by Italian fascist troops near Gandesa and lined up against a wall to face a firing squad. Just as they were to be shot, an Italian officer drove up and dismissed the firing squad, realizing that his international prisoners could be exchanged for fascist prisoners-of-war.
After spending more than a year in a P.O.W. camp and surviving the Fascist victory in the civil war, Paivio was released and shipped to France, where he made his way back to Canada.
Upon his return, there were no parades, and no federal veterans benefits—in fact, there was no official recognition at all for the men who had first faced down fascism. Distrusting the political inclinations of the members of the Mackanzie-Papineau Battalion, the Canadian government kept them under close surveillance and often limited their activities.
When the Second World War broke out, Paivio joined the Canadian Army, but was not allowed to travel overseas due to his association with the Soviet-backed International Brigades. For the duration, he taught map-reading to troops during their training in Canada.
After the war, Paivo studied architecture and later went on to teach at Ryerso nUniversity. He remained active in social causes, recently telling a journalist that citizen involvement was something close to his heart.
Two years ago, at a ceremony at the Spanish Embassy in Ottawa, Paivio was honored by the Spanish government and given full Spanish citizenship in return for his military service.
“It is difficult to thank them with the intensity they deserve,” said Spanish ambassador Eudaldo Mirapeix, “through him we honour them all.”
At the time of his death, Paivio was 96 years old.
Sep 11, 2013 at 7:42pm
Although the accepted norm for military conflicts is “history is written by the victors”, the Spanish Civil War seems to be an exception. Few conflicts in history have been as widely misunderstood, or misrepresented. The standard narrative has long been that of a military coup against a democratic government and the noble Spanish people, supported by foreign idealists, heroically fighting evil “fascists.” This is a grotesque distortion of the truth, (which the author fully buys into) and stands as one of the most flagrant examples of how propaganda has been uncritically accepted as official history. As such, a few counter-balance points are in order to get the complete story.
1. Author Doug Sarti makes the usual lamentations about a Popular Front government democratically elected by the people. However, in reality, the USSR was the one calling the shots. Those who still cling to the lie that the Republican side was really “democratic” would do well to consider what became of the Spanish gold reserve. On 14 September 1936, only two months after the outbreak of the war, it was shipped from Cartagena to Moscow (a smaller part was transferred to France) by order of the Republican authorities. It was, of course, never returned.
2. It is true that the forces under general Francisco Franco included the established Fascist party known as the Falange. However, to have an effective counter force against the communist/anarchist/ Republicans, Franco had to forge a coalition between various anti-communist groups like the radical traditionalist Carlists, old school conservatives, and the monarchists. To dismiss his forces as simply “ fascists” like Doug Sarti does is disingenuous to say the least.
3. It is interesting to note that Franco’s nationalist forces also received thousands of volunteers from all over the world, including 7,000 from Ireland alone. I doubt very much they were volunteering to fight for “fascism”; rather more for traditional Spain.
4. Aid from the Soviet Union to the “democratically elected Republicans” equaled or even exceeded that given to Franco by Germany and Italy.
5. “Fascism vs. Democracy” is a very deceptive portrayal of the conflict. Given the nature of the forces involved and their ultimate goals, Traditional Spain vs. Communism would be much more accurate.
Sep 11, 2013 at 7:43pm
Finally, keep in mind that the alternative to Franco’s Spain (resulting from his victory) would have been an Iberian Soviet state, complete with all relevant horrors. And according to Doug Sarti, this Paivio is supposed to be some kind of hero for fighting to try and make just that happen.
Sep 13, 2013 at 6:42am
How easy it is to talk through data and assumptions written in books. But you spoke Spanish with some of those who had to endure 40 years of repression and dictatorship and still to this day continue to bear in Spain?
Franco a hero? why do not you ask that to people who are searching for family members 80 years later shot to give them a proper burial. Or the thousands of Spanish reprisals that were sent by Franco to German concentration camps of World War II.
You speak of horrors, lease the episode of the battle of Badajoz in the early days of the military uprising and how hundreds of thousands of people were shot by French troops throughout the city and especially in the bullring city where before being shot Republicans bullfighting was offered a feast using prisoners as cattle and killing them as such in the presence of the fascist authorities and the bishop of the city
Franco is a hero you reviewing ignorant of something unknown
Sep 13, 2013 at 7:01am
The Republican government gold went to Spain as payment of the republic to the USSR for help received in the form of aircraft polikarpov "flat and fly" T26 tanks and numerous infantry weapons for the army since a large part of the arsenal of the republic was to stop the national side.
The victory of the February 36 elections was due to a coalition of leftist parties all the biennium after black liberal and was composed (Communist Party, PSOE, POUM, Republican Left, PNV, left galega, dederacion Iberian Anarchist CNT and Valencia left) with Don manuel azaña as elected presdente these agglutinated all the left parties Republican and certainly the Stalinist USSR wasnt behind all
Franco forces representing the interests of large landowners and the church as linked to power in Spain for centuries and that the republic from the beginning separated from power by creating a secular state and not as secular dictatorship in Spain was Catholic Apostolic and Roman
The hitler germany supplied the French army with weapons and effective machinery of his own army, rehearsing future tactics and weapons that would be used throughout World War 2 as lived in the bombing of Guernica
The only volunteers who received the 7000 Franco are O Duffy Irish fans who were a fool to go into battle
Sep 13, 2013 at 5:11pm
1. If history is any indicator, the dictatorship of Franco in Spain was relatively mild as compared to the horrors inflicted upon the citizen of communist countries. Perhaps you could speak Russian to some of those who endured communism? I guarantee that the victims there exponentially outnumber that of Franco’s Spain. In other words, you have no moral high ground in this argument.
2. Following an election plagued with irregularities, the Left finally won its 1936 victory with a minority of votes. According to French writer Christophe Dolbeau this period was immediately accompanied by strikes, occupations of land, assassinations, attacks on Army barracks, burnings of churches, journals and political offices. All provinces were set on fire without the government doing anything to assert its authority.
3. The Soviets sent the Republicans more than just tanks and planes. In order to assist the Spanish Reds in their campaign of terror, Moscow sent some of their best, led by General Alexander Orlov of the NKVD, the Soviet secret police. His real name was Leiba Lazarevich Feldbin, but, like many other prominent Jewish Bolsheviks, he had changed it to a Russian name. In August, Moscow also sent a new ambassador, Marcel (Moses) Rosenberg, to Madrid. The leading politician in the Republican camp was no longer the Freemason and liberal Manuel Azaña, but the Freemason and socialist radical Largo Caballero, who fancied himself as the “Spanish Lenin.” However, Rosenberg, and ultimately Stalin, held the real power in Republican Spain.
4. During most of the war, the Republicans controlled most of Spain’s industrial centers, and also had the support of the worldwide media, which was heavily biased against everything that traditional Spain represented.
5. As I previously stated, a good deal of Franco’s success was his ability to forge an alliance with the various groups who had little in common other than their opposition to Communism. And his supporters included numerous Spaniards from all across the board who only desired stability, and (with memories of Russia and Hungary still alive) feared what terrors communism would bring. The fact that Franco was able to establish a stable government afterwards, and in the later years oversaw tremendous economic growth is proof of this.
Sep 13, 2013 at 5:13pm
6. “that the republic from the beginning separated from power by creating a secular state and not as secular dictatorship in Spain was Catholic Apostolic and Roman”
You make it sound so benign. In reality, and true to form, the main target of communist vitriolic hatred was the Catholic Church. What took place in Red Spain during the first six months of the Civil War was one of the worst religious persecutions in modern times. Thirteen bishops, and over 7,000 priests, monks and nuns were murdered, in many cases after having been cruelly tortured. Exactly how many Catholic lay men and women were martyred for their faith is difficult to determine.
7. When O’ Duffy’s Irish brigade returned to Dublin on 22 June 1937, they were greeted as heroes at the pier by a crowd of over ten thousand well-wishers. He may be a fool in your opinion, but has had the gratitude of untold numbers of Spaniards--and Irish.
Sep 22, 2013 at 3:23pm
Oh deary me. Someone arguing that a victory of a fascist dictator was the best outcome for Spain. Written in such wonderful McCarthyite prose as well.
The popular front was exactly that, as the article says, a broad array of political groupings, from the Russian controlled PSE, to the Spanish socialist POUM, Catalan nationalists, anarcho-syndicalist unions, and basque miners.
Doesn't sound too communist to me? In fact the tell tale in Francos success was two fold:-
1. The NKVD sponsored PSE's attempts to wipe out the CNT/FAI/POUM coalition in Barcelona, thus doing Francos work for him
2. Britains refusal to aid the republican forces or enforce the sea blockade. Through fear of provoking Hitler as much as their own suspicions of the left wing aspirations of the Republican forces.
I would counter that your suggestion O'Duffy's volunteers did not go to defend fascism, but to save traditional Spain as far from disingenuous, but actually bordering on the laughable or insane! I'm not sure where you are sitting in the world, but O'Duffy ran the Irish fascist movement of Blue Shirts. I suspect you know this, but allow your own prejudices to flavour your own selective memory.
Oh yes, the Irish and Spanish are so grateful to those Brigands, that only volunteers from the XV International Brigade have plaques all over Ireland and received honerary Spanish citizenship. O'Duffy and his crew on the other hand are a blot on humanity, as we're the millions of Hitlers victims who you fail to ignore.
Viva La Quince Brigada!!
Oct 17, 2013 at 8:16am
To Franco's Ghosts,
Go and tell your arguments to relatives of civilians interred in thousands of Franco's mass graves all over Spain. Look at the official mass grave map produced by the Spanish government, and then discuss the good dicatorship. By the way there are plenty of civilian women massacred by the good Franco.
Oct 18, 2013 at 5:38pm
Oh deary me. Some poor little PO’d brat who just can’t believe that there were some who dared to challenge the implementation of communism in their country…and won! Just what one would expect from someone viewing history through their Marxist filter glasses.
1. I never claimed that the motley crew known as The Popular Front was itself communist. However, their utter failure to govern and exert any kind of proper authority in the months following their election left a wide open power vacuum, ripe for takeover. Leftist liberal and Freemason Manuel Azaña had once again become Prime Minister, and Spain quickly descended into violence and chaos. It was difficult for most Spaniards, whether they were for or against the new government, to fail to see it as only a transition prior to a Communist takeover. The parallels to the February 1917 Revolution in Russia were obvious.
2. Britain’s refusal to aid the Republicans was based more on not wanting Spain to fall under communism as opposed to provoking Hitler, who’s army at that time would have been hard pressed to take on Czechoslovakia, never mind Europe’s major sea power.
3. Even a cursory glance at Wikipedia (of all sources!) will reveal that O’ Duffy’s Irish brigade primarily saw themselves as fighting for the Catholic Church against communism. And many of the recruits from Ireland for the International Brigades were full on Communist party members.
Try doing at least a minimal amount of research before posting your “laughable and insane” replies.
Oct 18, 2013 at 5:40pm
“By the way there are plenty of civilian women massacred by the good Franco.”
Yes, and I’m sure that the Communists were as innocent as God’s own angels, right?
I’d be happy to take up your suggestion AFTER you explain to every family who suffered under communist persecution why Spain would have been better off as an Iberian Soviet state. But I don’t think you have enough life spans to do so.