Izquierda Republicana. Defiende la pequeña propiedad. Pena de muerte al ladrón
[Republican Left. Defend small private property. Death penalty to the thief].Signed: V. Petit Alandi. Junta Municipal. Delegación de Propaganda. Valencia. Lit.: S. Dura, Socializada U.G.T. C.N.T. Valencia. Lithograph, many colors; 160 x 108 cm.
S. Dura, a Valencian lithography firm jointly collectivized by the CNT and the UGT, published this poster for Izquierda Republicana (the Republican Left Party), probably in the summer of 1937. At that time, the Republican Left Party, led by Manuel Azaña, had become frustrated with the problem of theft and joined others in the loyalist zone in calling for more severe punishments against those who stole foodstuffs or disrupted Republican trade. This scene portrays a Valencian peasant or sharecropper holding a Republican flag and sounding an alarm with a giant conch. The figure is essentially a vigilant sentry who has spotted some undesirables (lower right) stealing armfuls of grain. Upon sounding his alarm, other peasants or small landowners (lower left) react violently as they impose their vigilante justice on the thieves. The homes in the far center-left background of the poster are barracas, rustic adobe lodgings common in the province of Valencia.
The political party Izquierda Republicana was formed in the fall of 1934, when Manuel Azaña fused his Acción Republicana with other moderate parties to create a large coalition of like-minded Republicans seeking to regain political power. Izquierda Republicanawas the driving force behind the Popular Front coalition, which included the Socialists and Communists, united to curb the advance of the “fascist” right. The Popular Front was able to slimly defeat the conservative coalition in the national elections of 1936, and Izquierda Republicana secured 106 seats in Parliament, second only to the Socialists.
Theft of agrarian products, among other valuables, was a significant problem at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, and the problem became worse as the war progressed. The food scarcity was exacerbated by constant warfare, and the rapid advances of the Nationalist army forced soldiers and refugees to help themselves to farmland foods. One Valencian collective sent the following complaint to the Minister of Agriculture on November 29, 1937:
[Soldiers and refugees] take whatever they want, break branches, strip our trees, break into and disturb our plantations, etc. Our nut crop has disappeared at their hands, the same is true of our pomegranates. They take vegetables, olives, yank out potatoes from the earth without letting them mature to a proper age and weight, and the oranges have disappeared from trees. We have an anguishing, exhausting, and frustrating situation on our hands.
Posters like this were one way that the Republican left tried to deal with the thefts.
From our online exhibit: The Visual Front
This poster refers to the campaign of Asturias, a region in the north of Spain that fell to the Nationalist army on October 21, 1937. A parallel was drawn at the time between the defense of Asturias and an earlier event of great symbolic importance: the revolutionary strike led by the coal miners of the region that had taken place three years earlier, in October 1934. This poster connects the events of 1934 and 1937 both through the inscription on the image and by calling attention to the monumental figure of the miner as the leader of the struggle. The determined expression of the miner, and the suggestion of movement created by the lifting of the left shoulder and the cropped arm, result in a powerful and heroic image. The call made in the poster by the issuing entity, the Socorro Rojo de España is for assistance to the families of the fighters, presumably in helping with their evacuation, or in donating food and other materials for their sustenance. The implication is that the determination of the miners in their new struggle, combined with their revolutionary efforts in 1934, make them worthy of assistance.
Among the most dominant images in this poster are the initials UHP, which also serve as posts for the barbed wire fence on the lower part of the scene. UHP stands for Unión de Hermanos Proletarios, or according to some accounts, ¡Uníos! Hermanos Proletarios (Union of Proletarian Brothers or Unite! Proletarian Brothers). This was a slogan used during the war in an attempt to override the differences that frequently caused serious confrontations between the Communists, Socialists and Anarchists. For the more revolutionary segments of the population, this was a positive call, and thus its use in images such as this one. It could also have more negative connotations, as when it was popularly used to refer to goods confiscated abusively and illegally According to one witness, people sometimes referred to cars by saying, “that car is UHP.” This meant that it had been confiscated and that its driver was not its rightful owner.
This poster probably dates to October 1937, the latest date on the inscription. It must have been issued shortly before the fall of Asturias to the Nationalists on October 21. The author who signs the poster, Cheché, is not known.