The Thing to Do: Motivational Factors for Enlistment in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939
Nearly 3,000 Americans volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Much has been written about them, but there is no comprehensive study on their motivations for enlisting in what we now call the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. In this thesis, the letters and spoken words of the volunteers are analyzed in order to better understand their various motivations. Each volunteer internalized the Spanish Civil War. Some had distinct reasons for volunteering, while others were carried by the Popular Front movement. Many volunteers came to see the situation in Spain as the “thing to do.” Why did Spain become a necessary struggle for these Americans? Were they fighting strictly for the Second Spanish Republic or were they fighting for personal reasons? The role of the Communist Party USA is also explored as it played a pivotal role in motivating the volunteers. There are no records for a majority of the volunteers. But in analyzing the words of those who left records, this study concludes that there were clear trends in motivations among the volunteers. Each volunteer internalized the Spanish Civil War, but they also saw themselves as part of the larger proletarian struggle. Were they a product of their times or simply motivated individuals?