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Vice-Chancellor's Office for Culture

"Si mi pluma valiera tu pistola" (If my pen were worth your gun)

"Si mi pluma valiera tu pistola" (If my pen were worth your gun). Second International Writers Congress in Defence of Culture (1937)

From 27th November 2007 to 20th January 2008. Muralla Room - Rector Peset Hall of Residence


From Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 to 13.30 and from 16 to 20 h.

Sunday, from 10 to 14 h.



The creation of the Alliance of Writers for the Defence of Culture (Alianza de Intelectuales para la Defensa de la Cultura - AIDC) –the international organisation of antifascist intellectuals- was the practical outcome of the First International Writers Congress in Defence of Culture, held in Paris in June 1935. A year later, in June 1936, the extended Secretariat of this international organisation met in London, where the Spanish delegates (Ricardo Baeza and José Bergamín) put Madrid up as a candidate venue for the Second International Congress. The proposal was approved by the Secretariat before the start of the Civil War, at the beginning of November 1936, when Franco's attack on Madrid had already started. Five months later, in Paris, the International Secretariat endorsed the decision made in London.

However, the moving of the Republican government from Madrid to Valencia in November 1936 caused the Second Congress to be opened and held in the latter city, the capital of the Republic at the time. The Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts, the communist Jesús Hernández, appointed three writers from the Spanish Section -Juan Gil-Albert, Emilio Prados and Arturo Serrano Plaja- organising secretaries.



The congress was opened by the President of the Republican government, Juan Negrín,  on 4th July 1937 at the conference room of Valencia’s City Hall. Without a doubt, the congress was the most spectacular cultural propaganda event organised by the Ministry during the Spanish Civil War. With more than a hundred antifascist writer participants from all over the world, the conference also catered for sessions in Madrid (on 5, 6, 7 and 8 July) and Barcelona (11 July), and was finally closed in Paris (16, 17 July).

The Congress addressed general cultural issues requiring collective intellectual reflection in a context of relaxation and peace radically different from that of a civil war. Under the historic circumstances of the time, the Conference logically and inevitably became an "act of opposition to fascist barbarity”, as Corpus Barga put it, since “the congress, particularly in Madrid, could be nothing but an act of war”. Far from the situation of antifascist writers who remained in their ivory towers or in a poetical daydream, the delegates explored specific aid avenues for Republican Spain and constantly condemned the non-intervention policy implemented by western democracies. On the other hand, the reconsideration of the social role of literature, the commitment of writers, or the real power of words as a specific weapon of intelligence were heated issues collectively discussed by the delegates.



Intellectually speaking, standing up for culture meant a new revolutionary humanism, a socialist humanism that struggled to ensure human dignity and peoples’ freedom. Therefore, in a Republican Spain that fought international fascism, that type of defence also implied defending the cultural nationalities of its diverse peoples. The presence of a delegation from the Valencian Country in an International Writers Congress was genuinely a historical novelty that evidenced the "normalisation" will of our political and cultural "recovery" process in the years of the Second Republic.



Apart from incidents like the controversial exclusion of André Gide or the political poverty or aesthetic shortage of some addresses –logically impregnated with the passionate ‘temperatures’ at which work was done and the consideration that foreign writers went through an experience marked an exceptional event (a civil war), nobody can deny the antifascist courage of the Second Congress. Precisely because that was the reason behind it: all those writers travelled to a country undergoing a civil war in order to express the international solidarity of intellectual antifascism with the Spanish Republic.

Manuel Aznar Soler

GEXEL-CEFID - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona




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