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This review is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

Stephen Spender ADDRESS TO THE CONGRESO INTERNACIONAL DE INTELECTUALES Y ARTISTAS at Valencia, June 1987

In June 1937, the meeting of 'the intellectuals' - 'Los Intelectuales', it sounds better in Spanish than in English - which took place in Valencia, and in Madrid and Barcelona, was called by our Spanish colleagues in order to demonstrate support for the cause of the Spanish Republic.

Fifty years later, the writers of the manifesto prepared for the present Congress point out that they do not wish this meeting to be a resurrection of the past. They want us to recognize our mistakes and to consider what role the intellectual should play in the world of today. They even seem to want us to redefine what we mean by 'Los Intelectuales'.

In 1937 what brought the intellectuals together in supporting anti-Fascism was that in Europe the Fascist or Nazi dictators had deprived intellectuals of freedom of self-expression. By imposing censorship, imprisoning intellectuals or driving them into exile, burning or banning books by writers whose opinions or race they took exception, the Fascist dictators themselves defined anti-Fascism. If one was not already 'political', to be an anti-Fascist was to be a victim, or to take the side of victims. Herbert Read, the English poet and critic, described anti-Fascism as 'the politics of the non-political': a stance forced on to those who were simply defending their own or others' rights to express themselves, even in the creation of non-political work. Thomas Mann remarked in the 1930s, 'In our time the destiny of man presents its meaning ...


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