Dolores Ibarruri (1895-1989) – better known as La Pasionaria – was an icon to the Communists and Socialists of the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, as well as to their ideological offspring and co-dependents today.
Born to poor but devout parents, a Basque father and Castilian mother, Dolores was encouraged to go to teachers school by her schoolmistress, but had to leave school at 15 due to her parents’ poverty. Taking up various jobs, including maid and seamstress, she became a waitress in the town of Arboleda, where she met Julián Ruiz Gabiña, a union organiser and founder of the local Socialist Youth. Becoming his mistress, she bore him a child in 1913; two years later they married.
In 1917, her husband was jailed for participation in the General Strike of that year. While Ruiz was there, Dolores studied Marx, and shed whatever remained of her childhood faith; the following year she wrote an article attacking what she considered religious hypocrisy during Holy Week. To disguise her identity she used the pseudonym which in later years was considered her claim to fame – La Pasionaria (“The Passionflower”). In 1920, she and her husband were among the first members of the Communist Party of Spain, and she remained an active member until her death. She would make many visits to Moscow, lived there at various times, and lived closely the fortunes of her chosen Faith during Spain’s Civil War, becoming famous for her battle cry “They shall not pass!” during the siege of Madrid.
Dolores came to literally worship Stalin. She favoured every atrocity committed by the Communists in Spain and the Soviet Union – not only against Nationalists, but Anarchists and Trotskyites. She praised the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact – that supreme crisis of conscience.
Rather than the secular saint she has been made into in Spain and elsewhere, Dolores was a Unity Mitford of the Left.