Ester Boquera from Martorell, PhD in Communication from Ramon Llull University, is the curator of the exhibition We crush fascism. The Commissariat of Propaganda of the Generalitat de Catalunya, 1936-1939. It can be visited from November 3 to April 5 at the Palau Robert in Barcelona. It is organized by the General Directorate of Dissemination of the Department of the Vice-Presidency and of Economy and Finance. It explains the persuasive means and strategies used by the Commissariat to defend policies of social progress and democratic and national freedoms.
The Commissariat of Propaganda, a modern, creative and unprecedented body set up in October 1936, deployed a far-reaching communicative strategy. He worked to internationalize the war and also explain to the public republican Catalan and Spanish. During the Civil War (1936-1939) propaganda played a key role due to the ideological nature of the war.
Both sides organized persuasive devices to spread their version of events both domestically and internationally. The exhibition not only reconstructs and disseminates the persuasive actions carried out by the Generalitat during the war, but also contextualises them and explains the reasons.
The Institut d’Estudis Catalans awarded Boquera in 2019 with the Joan Givanel i Mas Social Communication Prize for his doctoral thesis The battle of persuasion during the Civil War. The case of the Propaganda Commissariat of the Generalitat de Catalunya (1936-1939).
Why was the Commissariat of Propaganda of the Generalitat de Catalunya created during the Civil War? What was its function?
The ideologue of the Commissariat of Propaganda was Jaume Miravitlles, one of the organizers of the Popular Olympics to be held in Barcelona and which was finally suspended due to the outbreak of the Civil War. He was also part of the Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, a parallel power that was established in the Generalitat during the first months of the war. There he begins to talk to foreign journalists about what is happening here and realizes the need for Catalonia to have its own propaganda body, beyond the government of La República in Madrid or Franco’s propaganda, so that his voice do not be buried.
What was the importance of propaganda in that context of war?
Propaganda began to be important at the war level in World War I. The participating states see that propaganda is the battle that is being fought in parallel with the battle of arms. Catalonia, prior to the First World War, was already an advertising power throughout the state. When the Civil War broke out, all this knowledge was put at the service of propaganda techniques.
What was that propaganda like and in what formats?
What the Commissariat did we can say was 360 degree propaganda. They communicated through posters, books, rallies, exhibitions and mass events, but also with individualized actions. The Civil War attracted many intellectuals, journalists and international photographers who were interested in the conflict. Miravitlles took them through the Propaganda Commissariat and organized tailor-made visits to counter the image of Catalonia in the first days of the war, when churches were burned, such as that of Santa Maria de Martorell, or mummies of nuns were taken to the streets. … They passed through several towns, including Martorell, to show that heritage was preserved.
Did citizens have other ways of informing themselves or did they have to do so through propaganda?
We have to take into account the illiteracy rate that was there, which is why many of the Republican posters are very visual. We all have in mind the famous poster ‘Crush fascism’, which gives the title to the exhibition, which shows an espadrille crushing a swastika. Citizens could be persuaded or modeled by this type of propaganda, but books, newspapers, pasquins were also published and radio was of great importance.
Take a visual tour of the exhibition. What will we find there?
The show begins with a large poster that appeals to the visitor who is in the lobby. The poster reads ‘Militias need you’ and shows a militiawoman pointing at the viewer. Next, the importance of advertising in Catalonia before the Civil War is explained and a chronological tour of the Commissariat’s propaganda is made. There is also a room for the different types of propaganda that was distributed between the Catalan rear, Madrid public opinion, the international arena and the front, as this varied according to the recipients.
From the events of May, there is a change in the propaganda of the Commissariat. The government LaRepublic in Madrid laminates the powers of the Generalitat and the design of propaganda will be darker and duller to symbolize this stage of setback in the autonomy of Catalonia. The documentary Catalonia Martyr is also shown, where you can see the effects of the bombings in 1938 in various Catalan towns. The film was screened abroad for democratic countries to support The Republic. Finally, the exhibition ends with a list of 200 names I was able to retrieve from people who worked at the Propaganda Commissariat. It was a very important and unprecedented body in Catalonia, where many people worked. This show is a way to pay tribute to his work.
Why do we have to go see this show?
The Commissariat of Propaganda is a very unknown institution and lays the seed of what would be political communication in Catalonia. Almost overnight, an organization with around 300 workers is created in a six-storey building on Barcelona’s Diagonal, with offices in Paris, London, Brussels and Stockholm. It does a very short action, it works for two and a half years, but very intense. Try to cover everything and reach everyone.
Source: Web de notícies de l'Ajuntament de Martorell by noticies.martorell.cat.
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