Dolores Ibárruri

Better Die Standing, Than Live Kneeling!

Speech Delivered at a Mass Meeting in the
Winter Velodrome, Paris, September 3, 1936

Date: September 3, 1936
Source: Speeches and Articles pp. 18-21, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1938
First Published:Humanité September 13-14, 1936
Transciption/HTML Markup: Mike B. for MIA, June 2007
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


When the secretary of the Unitary Confederation of Labour called upon Pasionaria to speak the whole audience was stirred to its feet and greeted the glory-wreathed representative of the Spanish people with the loud strains of the "Internationale." This was followed by a minute's profound silence in memory of the Spaniards who had died fighting for the cause of their people.

Pasionaria begins to speak. Her voice at once captivates the audience.

"We have come here, people of Paris, to you who stormed and took the Bastille and who fought for the cause of the Commune

She stretches forth her hands and pleads by gesture and voice, which at moments of wrath and disgust becomes almost hoarse. Thousands of eyes are transfixed by this inspiring figure, bathed in the white beams of the spotlights.

Pasionaria's face is expressive of suffering and struggling Spain herself. The people will long remember those braids of black hair framing the strong brow, her deep-set eyes and the bitter smile on her lips. These people have had the good fortune to see one of the world's most outstanding women, one whose fiery courage and militant spirit personify heroic Spain.

A note of pain is heard in Pasionaria's voice when she recalls her

comrades who have been tortured to death; of wrath when she exposes the traitors, and the fascists who are arming them; of hope when she speaks of the heroism of the men and women of the Spanish people. It is a voice one cannot forget. The passion in it reaches its highest pitch when she exclaims:

"We need aeroplanes!…We need machine guns!…We need guns!…


Words cannot express the profound impression caused by the stirring speech of our magnificent Pasionaria. It was the voice of the fighters of Irun, Oviedo and Malaga that came from her lips; it was they who were appealing for help to the Spanish people, to the champions of the Great Revolution. It was the fighters of Badajoz and other battlefields who were calling to the French people not to allow their sister country to perish in an unequal struggle.

Tears streamed from the eyes of men and women as they listened to Pasionaria, and all hearts contracted with a spasm of pain and rage.

"People of democratic Spain, people who are fighting for the liberty and rights of man!"—thundered the voice of Pasionaria, "the whole Spanish people—socialists, communists and anarchists alike— have taken up arms against the fascist revolt. Fascism shall not pass! "Better die standing, than live kneeling!"

Her voice takes on a deeper note:

"But the enemies of the Republic were able to kindle revolt only because the Republic was too generous to them.

"The fascist leaders entrenched themselves in posts in advance. Their preparations for armed action had been going on for a long time. The organization of the anti-republican elements had begun under Gil Robles. Thus the fascists had made ready the forts of Guadarrama near Madrid, and had prepared stores of arms and munitions. The same was true in Valladolid, Burgos and Valencia. That is why they were able to exterminate thousands of unarmed Spanish workers."

Pasionaria spoke of the incompetence and hypocrisy of the fascist

generals, whom the Moroccan troops were able to defeat; yet now they were enlisting against the Spanish people these very same Moroccans by promises of plunder and permission to loot. They were using as their instruments the dregs of human society, the criminals and convicts of the foreign legion.

Our Pasionaria then went on to describe the supreme heroism of the Spanish fighters.

"Our unarmed people, whose only weapon is their heroism, are now fighting the fascists."

The audience is overcome with horror at the recital of the fascist atrocities:

"They slaughtered the whole population of Badajoz. Of the 500 inhabitants of Bailen they killed 270. In the villages they drenched the cottages with paraffin and burned women and children alive.

"The raping of women is a common thing in places occupied by the rebels. General Queipo de Llano announced by radio that he would send his soldiers to the villages which are famed for their handsome women, since he wanted his soldiers to have beautiful females."

Pasionaria issued a fiery call for solidarity:

The Spanish people will win, for they are fighting for their ideal. But the Spanish people, who prize the sympathy and solidarity of the French people, have learned with bitterness that the government of the French Republic, the government of this country of liberty and revolution, will not come to the aid of the lawful government of Spain.

"You must aid the Spanish people! They are fighting on the front of liberty and defending the cause of peace against fascism, the fomenters of war."

Pasionaria appealed to the French mothers and to all French women to aid the mothers and women of Spain who are sending their sons and husbands to the front to fight for a just cause:

"Beware! Today it is we, but tomorrow your turn will come! Help us, let your menfolk give us arms—heroism in our struggle is not enough. We need rifles, aeroplanes and guns to withstand the forces of the fascist rebels.

"We are defending the cause of liberty and peace. We need guns and aeroplanes for our struggle!"

The huge mass of people that filled the Velodrome listened to Pasionaria with bated breath and beating hearts. Her voice reflected every shade of feeling.

Although she spoke in Spanish, the people understood her when Mile spoke of the heroism of the Spanish people and the bloodthirsty barbarism of the rebel generals.

Exclamations of condolence and sympathy were heard on all hands accompanied by cries of greeting to Pasionaria who so magnificently personifies the courage and valour of a people who are fighting for their freedom.

The hail shook at the outburst of cheering that greeted the conclusion of her speech, into which she had poured all her sorrow and ardent love of her people . . . The whole audience rose at one accord, as though electrified, and gave expression to the will of millions in the cry:

"Guns and aeroplanes for Spain!"

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